From Con Man to King: Oz the Great and Powerful
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire & L. Frank Baum
Starring:James Franco as Oz
Mila Kunis as Theodora
Rachel Weisz as Evanora
Michelle Williams as Annie/Glinda
Zach Braff as Frank/Finley
Joey King as Girl in Wheelchair/China Girl
Oscar Diggs (Oz) is a small time magician in a traveling circus with a penchant for weaving intricate tales with gadgets to seduce and amaze. Oz just wants to make it big like Houdini but while running from one of his schemes gone awry he gets caught up in a twister that transports him to the magical land of Oz where he finds fortune and fame within his grasp. The only catch is he has to defeat the wicked witch and save the land from darkness. An easy task for the Great Wizard of Oz right?
Having loved The Wizard of Oz as a kid growing up I was a bit hesitant on what the result of a prequel to the classic would be. However, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how great of an homage it was to the original!
Starting out in the classic small framed black and white resolution the audience gets a glimpse into the clever and slightly sleazy mind of Oz as he prepares for his show. If you recall in The Wizard of Oz, it became very evident that he wasn't a Wizard of the magical kind - but a man that relied on his smarts. It was a great introduction to the character of Oz and his backstory that would lead him to the Emerald City. James Franco with his goofy smile, high cheekbones and perfectly jelled hair pulled off the lies, contraptions and womanizing with a dash of conscience perfectly! He has no shortage of 'magical' skills and in combination with a smooth talking tongue he can sell you anything while leaving a trail of broken hearts behind.
Mila Kunis as Theodora - is the first witch that Oz meets upon his arrival in the colorful land of Oz. Upon initially meeting her I wasn't too impressed. Mila was doing what she always does - the pretty face full of innocence. Soon Theodora develops a fast and hard attraction to Oz. As soon as that happened this was all I could think of:
But by halfway through the movie, my initial judgement was completely turned on its head with the evolution of Theodora. Mila was freaking fantastic and maniacal!
I loved Rachel Weisz as Evanora - she was equal parts regal and clever; right up there with Michelle Williams as Glinda who was true to her gentle but firm leadership role.
Zach Braff was probably my favorite though. Being clever and goofy is his thing, but it was even better with his voice coming from the face of a monkey.
The land of Oz is breath taking in its beauty and horror. This has probably been one of the more effective uses of 3D technology that I've seen in awhile. Instead of the 3D being passive with cheap images popping once in awhile it was completely immersive. It had my heart going as we took a thrilling ride over waterfalls and I was full of awe at all the vibrant bugs and birds popping from the screen (a lot of the kids in the theater were trying to catch them).
Throughout the movie we watch Oz walking a fine line between what's right and wrong - I was never really sure what he'd do. It's filled with cheesy jokes, magic and a moral story for the kids. But there's definitely some adult innuendo, pop scares, a side plot to tug at the heart strings and nods to the original Wizard of Oz that will entertain and please supervising adults.
Overall: 4/5 Hot Cups of Tea!
Disney sure knows how to make a family friendly movie without completely ruining a classic. It's not a complex story, and most adults will know where it's all headed. But it is a visual feast, and will keep the kids entertained. Although you might want to save this for older kids, there were a few scares that had the kids in my theater screaming. This is definitely one worth seeing in theaters and probably owning to watch repeatedly!