When I was eight I saw 1939’s The Wizard of Oz for the first time. It didn’t change my life or teach me any unique lessons, but it was never boring and it wasn’t afraid to break the mold as far as cinematic standards were concerned. Last week I saw Sam Raimi’s attempt to bring me back to that far-away-from-home fantasyland, but it seemed to be two ruby slippers short of having a pair.
My main criticism of Oz the Great and Powerful is that it was afraid of taking chances. Every scene, line of dialogue and plot ‘twist’ seemed formulaic to almost an insulting degree. This movie wasn’t trying to take me back to Oz, it was taking me on a theme park ride through it, throwing cheap platitudes at me at every turn in an attempt to sell me on a newer, ‘cooler’ Oz that had younger actors and sex appeal.
Speaking of sex appeal, I found it difficult to accept the movie’s version of an ‘ugly’ witch in the form of Mila Kunis. They slapped on some thin green face point, a slightly curved nose and gave her some chin putty. She still could have won Miss Oz ‘13 with the effort they put towards her uglification.
I love James Franco as much as one man could disingenuously love a geographically-distant celebrity entity, but I feel that he only hurt his career by signing on to this emerald cash-in. This isn’t the same James that survived a rock-climbing disaster, fought Spiderman and got high with me. With his younger brother Dave getting his name into some big titles recently, including a short-lived but deserved role in Warm Bodies, it might be the dawning of a new era of Franco.
To put it simply, Oz the Great and Powerful was boring. It didn’t do the universe justice and seemed to exist for the sole purpose of setting up a new merchandise-heavy trilogy. If I had to cite any redeeming factors in the movie, it would have to be Zach Braff’s sarcasm-laden performance as Franco’s CGI helper monkey. I laughed at every other one-liner he sent my way, though the movie never really explained how Franco’s Kansas aide managed to throw his voice all the way to Oz. In that same vein, the movie didn’t explain a whole lot, such as why Michelle Williams’ character was identical to Oz’s real-world sweetheart. And it seemed like Raimi was setting us up for a different kind of “it was a dream all along” ending but chickened out halfway through directing the thing.
Frankly, that would have been better.