Oz The Great And Powerful [movie review]

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_PosterOz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story we all grew up with, and that be more pressure than any movie deserves to have heaped upon it, but there it is.  It’s fair to say it doesn’t live up to the hype, and I don’t think it ever could as that’s an unfair expectation, but even more so, the movie just has fundamental problems that distract the viewer.

Although the books have fallen out of copy right, the MGM musical has not, so while we may all be checking the witches for ruby slippers, there nowhere to be found as those are MGM creations and not part of the original L. Frank Baum story.  So while this movie does deliver a nostalgia feeling for the adult audience members, it’s not exactly what you’re looking for.  But that’s just our own expectations – the movie has other problems, too.

spoiler alert

Beyond the movie’s half ass desire to be an action flick (they only half did the obligatory scene where people line up on opposing sides of the screen and then run toward each other and beat the crap out of one another, so that was nice) and minor story issues and bigger character development problems, the movie’s biggest problem was its cast.

The Best Part of the Movie:  Rachel Weisz
Let’s start with the good:  Rachel Weisz knocked it out of the park.  She was cunning, manipulative and exquisite.  She’s evil and she loves it, and as an audience member, you love it to.  As the soon to be Wicked Witch of the East, Weisz was dynamite.

Another Nice Addition:  Joey KingJoey King was brilliant as the girl in the wheel chair/China Girl.  She was all sweetness and zest as the voice of China and she did a great job of holding the movie together… except the scenes where they completely forgot she existed.

Miscast:  James Franco
I like James Franco a lot, but he just wasn’t right for this role.  While I did like his sarcasm and smoothness, he just didn’t bring a confidence to the role that I was looking for.  He’s more of a reluctant hero rather than the brilliant guy who’s given lemons and makes lemonade, and the role really needed the latter.  He was acceptable, but a knockout performance from Franco could have really delivered this movie from average to great.

Miscast:  Zach Braff
I liked Zach Braff’s Kansas counterpart, but as the voice of the monkey, it just wasn’t working.  Also, his character was useless – not Braff’s fault, but everyone made a lot of mistakes when it came to this character, and Braff was far from innocent.  His cheesy one liners were causing me physical pain during the march into Emerald City scene, and then they were nearly absent from the rest of the film.

Half Miscast:  Mila Kunis
I just don’t get what they were trying to do with Mila Kunis’ character in this flick.  As Theodora…  was she supposed to have…  uhm…  some problems?  You know, with her brain?  Calling her simple is an overstatement.  And then, as the Wicked Witch of the West, she just didn’t deliver the necessary menace.  I didn’t think she was especially bad in the role, but it just wasn’t right for her.

Meh:  Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams was fine as Glenda the Good.  She didn’t blow me away and she was far from inferior – she was serviceable.  Perhaps a more talented actress could have elevated the film (as Glenda is a large part of the movie), but Williams was merely adequate, and this movie desperately needed her to be brilliant, and she’s not – she’s just OK.

The Oz stories function on a very simple set of rules:

  1. the protagonist is on a quest/journey/trip
  2. the protagonist meets companions along the way
  3. they all become friends and go on an adventure

That’s about all you need to do in an Oz story, and this movie couldn’t keep who was in the group straight.  By the time they were done assembling the company, the movie was practically over, and some characters would come and go at will, making it difficult to ascertain who was important and who was secondary.  It was a pain in the butt.

Danny Elfman’s Retched ScoreI am so sick of Danny Elfman and his ensemble of hooting altos.  He hasn’t done anything interesting 20 years and it’s really starting to wear on me.  I only need to hear about four measures of a score to know it’s his – the flurrying flutes, the hooting lower brass, the insipid women shouting out vowels… ENOUGH ALREADY!  Thankfully, the lifeless corpse of a score fades into the background as the movie rolls on, but that title sequence reeks of Elfman.

I saw this movie in plain old two dimensions, and I have to say, a lot of the effects looked like crap, including much of Oz itself.  At no point did I ever truly believe I was looking at anything but a sound stage with a ton of green screen behind it.  Even the trees looked fake…  how hard is it get a tree right?  Pretty hard, apparently.  The most glaring effect that took me right out of the movie was the bubble effect – particularly on Glenda.  Maybe it looked better in 3D, but it looked like hell in my screening.

I see what director Sam Raimi was trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me.  There’s a lot of good ideas in Oz the Great and Powerful, but in the end, I feel that it’s just an average movie, and the Oz legacy demands so much more.  There was some nice tributes in there to the Oz story, vaudeville and movies in general (he’s not the wizard they need, but he’s the wizard they’ve got…), yet it just didn’t do it for me.  I’m giving Oz the Great and Powerful a 6.5 out of 10.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on March 12, 2013, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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