Movies: Oz the Great and Powerful

Here is Disney's take on the rise of the Wizard who rules Oz: A middling and predictable story filled with candy-colored visuals that moves toward a pre-determined ending.

Oz (James Franco) is nothing more than a circus act until, fleeing the strongman who is angry that Oz poached his girl, he hops into a hot-air balloon and flies straight into a tornado. Instead of the sudden zing! of color, however, Oz's arrival in his eponymous kingdom slowly saturates as he floats over and lands in a place that looks like something from a Dr. Seuss illustration. The cartoony effects call more attention to themselves than they should, and Oz's fakir persona becomes quickly tiresome.

He is greeted upon landing by Theodora (Mila Kunis) who informs him he's arrived in Oz. "That's my name!" Oz cries, and the viewers groan.

Turns out the people of Oz have been waiting for someone named Oz—a wizard, specifically—to arrive and bring peace to the land. Theodora and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) have been keeping the throne safe for said prophesied person, having ousted the "evil" Glinda, daughter of the previous king/wizard (wizard king?) whom they framed for poisoning him. You see where this is going. Since we all know Glinda is, in fact, the good witch . . .

Throughout, Franco as Oz mugs and crinkles up his eyes; I think we're also supposed to believe the ladies find him charming, though there is no chemistry between Franco and any one of the actresses who surround him.

The story continues with Evanora sending Oz to kill Glinda, which he can do by breaking her wand. But of course Glinda wins him to her side and an uninspiring battle ensues wherein Oz uses his bag of tricks to set tinkers, farmers, and Munchkins to work like elves in Santa's workshop so they can defeat the two baddie sisters destined to become the Wicked Witches of East and West. This includes the creation of the great projector that Oz uses so famously at the end of The Wizard of Oz.

I had to wonder whether real-world Oz wasn't in some kind of [strongman-induced] coma and this was all going on in his head, but if that is the case, he never wakes from it. Which makes sense, one supposes, since he has to be there when Dorothy turns up much later. (Disney thought it would be cute, btw, to have Oz's real-world love interest choose to marry John Gale because Oz refuses to commit. Hrm.)

While The Wizard of Oz is a classic, Oz the Great and Powerful hardly merits that status. It is a predictably plotted, nigh cheerless piece of visual confectionary, a kind of illusion Oz himself might attempt to conjure and put over on his audience.

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