Oz the Great & Powerful’s Wikipedia page dubs the film a “spiritual prequel” to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. That’s enough to trigger interest in millions of movie fans, particularly those (like me) who grew up in the pre-DVR/TiVo/On Demand era and looked forward to the two or three times a year that the iconic Judy Garland-led film aired on CBS.
Of course, there are also those who will be skeptical towards a retelling (or in this case, more of an addition to) the Oz story. I admit to having had a bit of the raised eyebrow syndrome before I actually saw Oz the Great & Powerful. As it turns out, the film satisfied me, although I wasn’t enraptured. It’s not the type of movie you’ll want to see repeatedly, but there are plenty worse ways to spend two hours.
A quick synopsis (without giving away too many spoilers): James Franco plays Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a magician/carnie who gets transported (via tornado, natch) from Kansas to the land of Oz. Upon his arrival, he runs into the witch Theodora, played by Mila Kunis. Theodora mistakenly believes that Oscar is the mystical Wizard of Oz, and leads Oscar to an opulent castle, where he is promised unbridled wealth (in the form of a room filled with gold) if he can eliminate the witch Glinda, who is played by Michelle Williams. Add in Theodora’s manipulative sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and you have a recipe for disaster.
There is a 2-D version of the movie, but if I may make a suggestion, I’d say that the 3-D edition is well worth whatever extra money you might pay. Oz the Great & Powerful was the first movie I’ve seen in 3-D, and I can safely say that it made my experience 10 times better. The effects are fantastic, and there are a few” jump out of your seat” moments that’ll make you wish every movie was in 3-D.
The effects kinda make up for the inconsistent performances given by the cast. James Franco is a great actor, but he appears awkward in the role of Oscar Diggs. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I get that vibe from him, but I do. Apparently Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp were both offered the part prior to Franco, and both actors would’ve done a much better job in the role. He’s not awful-just kind of ill-fitting and drab. Mila Kunis does a much better job as Theodora, delivering a delightfully over-the-top performance. It’s hard sometimes to watch Kunis act, as everytime I hear her speak, I immediately identify her as Meg from “Family Guy,” but she definitely digs her claws into her role.
Many of the supporting actors perform well, also. Zach Braff is a delight in a dual role. He plays Oscar’s too-faithful assistant in Kansas, and then resurfaces in Oz as a monkey whose life Oscar saves. There’s an endearing goofiness to that latter role that’s right up the former Scrubs actor’s alley. Tony Cox also shines in his role as the sassy Knuck.
Oz the Great and Powerful is good enough to keep you interested even though you already know how the story is going to end. There aren’t a whole lot of curveballs thrown. For the most part, it’s kid friendly, making it an ideal way to spend a family night out. Younger kids may be a bit spooked by some of the 3-D effects and a bit of violence but anyone over the age of 8 or 9 should be fine. While the acting won’t win any awards, Oz the Great and Powerful is an enjoyable update of a classic story.