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IHC Movie Review: Oz, The Great and Powerful

Movies and I have a generally good relationship; that is I’m a cheap date. When I go, I expect the movie to evoke some emotion or entertainment for the 2-3 hours I’m there and then we part ways. It’s like speed dating, except I don’t have to talk. Also I never have to see them again if I don’t want to and they don’t mind. I don’t think this is too much to expect, but sometimes even a movie can make for a bad date. Oz falls into this slot and that sucks, because it was on my 2013 bucket list.

Plot

Oz is a true prequel to the Wizard of Oz. It starts in fashion that one would expect. 1905 Kansas, traveling circus, and Oz The Great and Powerful (James Franco) doing a cheap magic show even for the time. In between these so-called magic shows he’s constantly trying to take advantage of women, using the same line and prop (a music box) on each of them. In short, he’s a con-artist with dreams of being “Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison all rolled into one.”

He does pull off one reasonable stunt, and a little girl bound to a wheelchair screams at him to make her walk again. When he falters at her request he’s booed off the stage and flees to his cart and after getting chased by the strongman in the Circus, flees to his (well, half his) balloon and takes off, only to get sucked into a tornado. After a prayer, he finds himself in the land of Oz.

The story is fairly straightforward from this point. Oz picks up two allies along the way, a flying monkey by the name of Finley (Zack Braff) and a China girl (Joey King) who has no other name, and is literally a ceramic doll. Together they band together with Glinda and fight the sisters for control of the land. A betrayal occurs, and a mildly clever solution is put into play, but nothing is surprising or thrilling.

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One thing we do learn about Oz is that he has no issues abandoning children to the road if it suits him…

Visuals

This flick does borrow heavily from the origin film; the whole thing starts in black and white AND in the square ratio of the day. Everything looked period correct and relatively in place. When Oz reaches Oz (that gets old fast) the screen widens to a more typical 16:9 ratio and moves to color and sadly that’s where it falls apart.

I honestly thought I was looking at Wonderland, not Oz. I feel like the SFX team felt they needed to one up a 74 year old movie, like they had something to prove. The colors initially were so bright and dramatic I felt like someone turned the contrast way up on the film. It was jarring and unpleasant and remained that way for the rest of the movie. I got used to it after a few minutes, but that shouldn’t happen, ever.

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See, Wonderland, with just a hint of Tim Burton. You’d think the biggest filmmaker on the planet could hire more than one team of visual effects specialists.

Performance

I found the acting horribly lacking. The three witches were for the most part quite flat, Theodora particularly so. One would think that role would be moving, especially considering the significance of it, but I was completely unimpressed. Her character was one dimensional. During the film my phone rang (it was on vibrate, stop screaming at me) and I seriously considered taking it, I was that bored. Franco and King did make reasonable attempts, and I got mild amusement from the master tinker (Bill Cobbs), but universally the performance was phoned in.

Overall

I’m contrary to the critics on this one. This movie did nothing that I would expect it to do. It didn’t harken back to my younger days watching the first movie, it’s not a musical, the story was bland and the effects were overdone. This is not a good tribute to Baum’s work. Skip it. it’s not worth a watch.

Rating: 2/5


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