REVIEW: 'Oz the Great and Powerful.' Yellow brick roadkill

March 7, 2013
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There's so much wrong with "Oz the Great and Powerful" that I feel obligated to start off by writing about what's wonderfully, magically right.

That's easy: The credit sequence.

There is so much joy and wonder in those few minutes--with period pop-ups and charming music--that I was lulled into the belief that this wasn't going to be just another Hollywood cash in on an American classic.

I was wrong.

From the moment James Franco (an actor who can be very right...in the right role) enters as the alleged wizard, the project doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. The camera holds on him far too long in just about every shot, not showing us the man behind the magician but, rather, the sub-community theater actor behind the movie star. Never believable for a second, this could be the worst performance in a major motion picture I've seen in years--and blame should be shared equally with the director and editor.

But Franco isn't alone. Every one of the leads feels like the third choice. Franco fills in where Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp might have brought some spark and none of the trio of witches--Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz--seem like they want to be in the film. And no wonder. All are saddled with playing various degrees of dumb, easily manipulated by this third-tier wiz even though they are the ones with the true powers. Lesson ladies: One sneaky guy can outplay three powerful women. How retro.

This "Oz" doesn't have the brains, heart or courage to pursue its own style. Once we get to Oz, the effects are so blatant and the performers so non-integrated that it feels like we are watching visual karaoke with the movie projected behind them. Far too many flying monkeys fill the sky while far too few interesting creatures populate the landscape. The two we do meet (a china doll voiced by Joey King and a bellhop-suited monkey voiced by Zach Braff) left me imagining a film that dispensed with the humans altogether and went all-CGI.

It couldn't have been much worse.

Your thoughts?

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  • Better luck Jack
    Wow, with that review, I will definitely save my cash for something more worthy. Here's hoping Hollywood's new twist of Jack and the Beanstalk is at least somewhat better than this (but I won't hold my breath).
  • Meh
    “Oz the Great and Powerful” is all smoke and no mirrors, no fantasy, just effects without affect. To be honest, more like Oz the Amiable and Un-threatening. The best, funniest Oz thing I've read lately is DA YELLER BRICK ROAD, a revisionist telling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Uncle Remus. The conceit is it was originally by Remus (who didn't exist) and then "borrowed and cleaned-up" by Baum. Hilarious and charming. All that "Oz the Great and Powerful" is not.
  • NPR & OZ
    I thought it curious this morning when I heard an article on Morning Edition about the movie. The reporter mentioned the movie, noted how it was more of a prequel to the original movie and then moved on to related stories & movies by L. Frank Baum. Not one word concerning their thoughts on the new movie. I thought it was odd. Now I know.
  • I will not be going
    I'm a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz and Wicked. I had already decided I had no interest in going to see Oz, judging from the scene or two I have seen on TV. On another note Ana Gasteyer will perform on Friday, June 7th at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club. Best known for her six year stint on Saturday Night Live and her famous characters including middle school music teacher Bobbie Moughan-Culp, NPR radio host Margaret Jo, and her spot on impersonations of such celebrities as Celine Dion and Martha Stewart, Gasteyer can currently be seen on ABC’s hit comedy, Suburgatory. In 2001, she made her Broadway debut as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and in 2005, she originated the role of Elphaba in the Chicago production of Wicked, reprising that role on Broadway in 2006. Gasteyer is currently working on an album adaptation of her nightclub act, Elegant Songs from a Handsome Woman.
  • Did not see the wires
    I don't know what movie you saw but I saw a fun film for all ages. Thought everyone did a good job. Stopped thinking that they were CGI and saw characters. Here children laughing after being scared in the forrest scene. Enjoyed not knowing which wicked witch was which. It was a fun film. Some see the magic others see the wires.
    • Same movie
      Mark, Glad you enjoyed.
    • Roadkill indeed
      The review was right on, and wish I would have read this before I plunked down $35 to see IMAX 3D version! Franco was awful and the story rambled. The ending was better, and I liked the subtlety of the China Doll "make me walk" girl, and the change from B&W to color, but there were too few magical moments. If I were king of the forest, I would have kept it like original, made it a musical and less drama about the witches and prophecy etc. straightforward good v evil.
    • review
      I was hesitant to see the movie after I read your review, but about 7 different people I know went to see it and LOVED it...I guess I have to go see for myself. I almost wish they would have waited for WICKED to go to the theater...the is the TRUE story before the Wizard of Oz. :)

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