Oz the Great and Powerful

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by Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

Oz the Great  and Powerful takes viewers  on a journey that explains the story of “the man behind the curtain.”  For the most part, the film succeeds in describing the backstory to  a classic tale, revealing what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped  in.

Just like  in The Wizard  of Oz, Oz begins in  black and white, where we meet Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a magician  with a traveling circus. He uses his clout to meet and lead women on,  asking them to be his assistant in his show. But he’s really a con man,  and when he seduces the wrong woman – the strong man’s girlfriend! –  he flees in a hot air balloon, leaving behind his right-hand man and  sound effects guy Frank (Zach Braff).

In an intense  and stunning sequence, his hot air balloon is swept up in a twister  and then lands in Oz, where of course everything then changes into brilliant  Technicolor. After bouncing around through a river and down a waterfall,  where I felt like I was playing a video game and gave Disney the opportunity  to show off their special effects, he meets naïve witch Theodora (Mila  Kunis), who just wants to see the best in people. She tells him he is  the prophesied savior of Oz and they head to the Emerald City to tell  her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) about his arrival and meet flying  monkey Finley (voiced by Braff) along the way.

Later, Evanora  sets him out on his own journey after she tells him he must destroy  the Evil Witch’s wand and he and Finley meet a china girl, whose village  had been decimated by the Evil Witch and her flying baboon minions.

But is the  Evil Witch really who Evanora says she is?

That twist  is wisely held off for later (though if you pay attention early on in  the film, you may be able to guess who it is) and Oscar and Glinda (Michelle  Williams) team up to save Munchkinland from wickedness.

The film  is beautifully made, with spectacular colors and fun effects. You’ll  be amazed at the realism of the bubbles Oscar, Glinda, and their companions  travel in to Munchkinland. You’ll be dazzled by cotton candy clouds  and the bright, sleep-inducing poppies from movies of yore that Glinda  uses her magic to camouflage in an attack. You’ll be transfixed by Theodora’s  and Evanora’s powers, but are they good witches or bad witches?

Kunis and  Weisz play their sisterly conflict of power wonderfully, but my favorite  witch is Williams. Her Glinda is perfect and you can absolutely see  how she grows up to be Billie Burke’s version of the Good Witch. The  only person who seems slightly miscast is the one whose shoulders the  movie rides on – James Franco. He seems to troll the whole movie, sometimes  appearing insincere in the face of contention. Robert Downey, Jr. was  originally slated to play the Wizard and I wonder if Franco had that  in the back of his mind the whole time.

Overall,  though, I thought it was a great film. But there are definitely scenes  that may be scarier for younger viewers, where the Wicked Witch’s baboons  pop out of nowhere or Glinda gets tortured in front of the townspeople.  However, if they can handle the first movie re-telling of Baum’s book  or even more recent films like Brave, they should  be okay with this one.

Oz the Great  and Powerful is a fun  movie the whole family can enjoy. It may not become a classic, revered  the way The Wizard  of Oz is, but  you don’t want to miss this entertaining tale that takes us back over  the rainbow.

Rating: 4  out of 5 stars


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