Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – Review

3 Stars

The majestic world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz is visited with mixed results in the prequel film helmed by Spiderman director Sam Raimi. The story begins in Kansas in 1905 where struggling illusionist Oz (James Franco) is working the dust bowl circuit with a roving troupe of carnies. Oz’s half-hearted magic tricks are barely able to conceive the fact he is a sub par performer whose interest are more inclined to womanizing than onstage professionalism. Fleeing from an enraged jilted husband, Ozwald boards a hot air balloon that sails right into a whirling tornado. Things brighten visually and from a narrative standpoint from here on.

Oz finds himself in the vibrant land of Oz. Where he is soon deceived by Theodora (Mila Kunis) and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) the wicked witch and sent on a fool’s errand to kill Glinda (Michelle Williams) in order to gain a mountain of gold. Along his quest to and from the Emerald city and into the dark forest, Oz is aided by a host of appealing (mostly CGI) characters, including a talking servant monkey (comically voiced by Zach Braff) and a 5-inch tall living porcelain doll.

There are many overt and subtle references to the source material and the 1939 film it inspired. The visual wizardry onscreen is so vast that the story, engaging though it is, just can’t keep up. Which isn’t helped by a two-hour running time that feels bloated. Yes too much of a good thing, can become overwhelming by the final scene. Oz the Great and Powerful is adorned with some fantastic acting from Franco, Weisz and Williams surrounded by some of the most lush production design this side of Tim Burton. With a positive theme of choosing between being a good man or a great one and a lack of violence or anything offensive, Oz the Great and Powerful is an instant classic in terms of family viewing options.

Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Rachel Weisz, James Franco, Michelle Williams

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