Twenty minutes into director Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful I started daydreaming about a twister that would lift me out of my $16 seat and whisk me off to someplace over the rainbow – or at least put me out of my misery
That may sound a bit melodramatic, but anyone who has seen this latest offense to L. Frank Baum’s memory likely agrees.
As a fan of all things Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City, I’ve long loved Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 optical feast The Wizard of Oz, and I can honestly say that I don’t entirely hate Disney’s previous attempt (Disney is behind the current debacle as well) to Return to Oz in 1985. Raimi’s interpretation of the fabled land with which we’ve all grown up, however, was neither Victor Fleming-groundbreaking like the legendary original nor will it ever become a cult classic like the latter Fairuza Bulk vehicle.
For starters, James Franco as the titular Oz (a nickname; his character’s given name is Oscar Diggs) is miscast in his role that was originally intended for Robert Downey Jr., according to reports. One can’t help but wonder what kind of energy Iron Man would have brought to this supposed origin story that reeks of a “Wicked” rip-off. In hindsight, it’s safe to say that even at his worst, RDJ couldn’t have mucked this up
To be fair, I’m a fan of Franco’s. I don’t think that he’s a half-bad actor – despite what many amateur critics, at least on social media, have said – but, in my mind, he will never be suited to plan the Man Behind the Curtain. He’s James Dean. He’s Harry Osborn. He’s Alien. He filled each of those roles well. But a great wizard he does not make.
If you need another reason why Franco was all kinds of wrong for this role, well,
While Franco was meant to carry the film, his co-stars won't get off the hook that easy; they had an obligation to their roles as well. While I thought Rachel Weisz as the witch Evanora was particularly divine, Michelle Williams as good witch Glinda and Mila Kunis as Theodora were off their games as much as Franco. The film went downhill (and fast) – for me, at least – when the latter of this trio transformed into what I can only assume was intended to be a CGI caricature of the original Wicked Witch of the West. It’s really that bad.
Speaking of CGI, while Oz the Great and Powerful is heavy on kaleidoscopic special effects (some of which are well done), overall they appeared subpar considering how far we’ve come with technology. Four years ago, the heavily CGIed Avatar became a modern moviemaking marvel, so why then does Oz, in this version, look like somebody crop-dusted LSD as far as the eye can see? The effects and set design of the classic 1939 film (built by hand, mind you – does that even happen anymore?)
Bottom line, as big-budget special effects go, Oz the Great and Powerful is amateur hour.
Epic cinematic failures aside, there were two redeeming parts of the film. China Girl (voiced by the adorable Joey King) and Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) were the only
The other saving grace of the film is the mini-homages that this version paid to its 1939 predecessor. From Oscar Digg’s black-and-white love interest Annie mentioning that John Gale asked her to marry him (Dorothy’s father, perhaps?) to a few Horses of a Different Color in passing to giving Dorothy’s iconic gingham fabric a shout-out, it was nice to be reminded of what once was – even if it’s a far cry of what currently is.
Alas, while I’m not alone in thinking that Oz the Great and Powerful should take an express bubble back from where it came – many real critics panned it, too – we can definitely expect another trip to the place where troubles melt like lemon drops thanks to the film’s $218 million (and counting) worldwide haul.
Because crappy film or not, there’s no place like home – or the almighty box-office dollar.