Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox.
Rated: PG. Adventure/Fantasy. Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
Today we took Ethan for a look at, the latest fresh spin on “not being in Kansas anymore”, Oz the Great and Powerful. In this enjoyable prequel, the focus is on Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco), a small time circus magician and con man of women. He, like Dorothy, starts out in black and white Kansas, and gets blown into the beautiful, colorful land of OZ. His first contact is with the good witch Theodora (Kunis), who believes Oscar is the powerful wizard from “the prophecy”, come to save Oz from the Wicked Witch. Soon after, they come upon a trapped flying monkey, Finley (voiced by Braff), who pledges his devotion for life to the “Wizard” for saving his life. Unlike the flying monkeys we’ve always known, Finley is kind and loyal, the conscience of the movie, and source of many of the funniest lines. Oscar, hungry for the riches that come with the title, pretends to be the Wizard and embarks on a quest to kill the Wicked Witch and free the land of Oz from her tyranny.
I often express my disdain for the influx of 3D features accruing larger sums from gouging ticket sales, but this film is an exception. Oz is the perfect example of a film that has so much artistic value and visual enhancement added by the 3D. Once we find ourselves transported to the fantastic world of Oz, the landscape and action sequences are absolutely breathtaking. We are literally swept away with Oscar as his hot air balloon dips into valleys, crests over hills and dives down the face of a mighty waterfall. The story is one of good versus evil and the journey that each character travels in order to find where their allegiance lies. It is also a very interesting and in depth look at a character that we’ve all known for decades, but never really have the pleasure of learning about. Oz is our opportunity to meet this great wizard and to watch the sequence of events that mold him into the man we are familiar with from the family classic. I wasn’t blown away by this movie, but I found it endearing and I admire its ingenuity.
Maria and I love trying to figure out what is going to happen next in the movies we see, the TV shows we watch. We’re always whispering our theories in each other’s ears. I’m generally pretty good at seeing what’s coming, but Maria was the one all over Oz. She had every plot twist spot on, and there were quite a few. I was impressed, this story of good versus evil was anything but cut and dry. Also, my son Ethan knows that one of my favorite things in movies is when someone “bad” turns good (He gives Oz a thumbs up FYI). That being said, I like the transformation to flow naturally. Recently we rented Hope Springs, a Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones vehicle, the story of an older couple in a major rut who go for counselling to save their marriage. Jones’ character is miserable the entire movie, dragged every inch by his wife who is sincerely trying her best to reconnect with the man she loves. At the eleventh hour, Tommy Lee does a 180 and becomes the man his wife desires. The movie wasn’t horrible, but the abrupt change by the husband just didn’t ring true to me. In Oz the Great and Powerful, Oscar’s metamorphisis from selfish, narcissistic cad to selfless hero is gradual, seemless and believable. And one of the main reasons the movie works so well for me.
I agree, the transformation in Oz feels more genuine and like a natural progression. This film had a very original premise and still paid homage to the classic. We enjoyed how some of the characters from Oz’s time in Kansas transferred over to his new home. His carnival sidekick is reincarnated in the form of well intentioned Finley (Braff), the handicapped girl at his magic show who begs him to help her walk becomes the adorably tiny “china” doll, who needs help doing the same after a brutal attack on her town and Glinda the Good Witch (Williams) is a carbon copy of the love of his life that he leaves behind only moments before his fateful balloon ride. The film was visually stimulating, entertaining and extremely cute. And most importantly, Ethan enjoyed it. He just recently starred in a 4th grade production of “Munchkin Mediation”, a short play designed to teach conflict resolution. He played the wizard and thoroughly impressed us both. Honestly, the star of the show! Oz is definitely worth the trip to the theatre and will be a welcome escape to a magical place.
Ross’ Rating: 3.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Gummies.