Oz the Great and Powerful (1 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Drag me to Hell, Evil Dead)
Written by Mitchel Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards, Romeo Must Die), David Lindsey-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Rise of the Guardians)
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis
As a young child The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite films. The film is still in fact one of my favorite movies of all time. There is something about this young girl, named Dorothy singing about a better life 'somewhere over the rainbow.' The film is timeless. Over the years there have been several adaptations which provide different interpretations of the L. Frank Baum book, like the films The Wiz, Return to Oz, and of course the musical/book Wicked. I have seen them all, and never hold the lore against them just love interesting new versions of the story and its characters.
In this version of the land of Oz, Oz or Oscar (James Franco) is a struggling magician trying to make a living on the carnival scene. As a situation gets worse in Kansas Oz gets sucked into a tornado of all things and transported to the land of his namesake Oz. Oz soon meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) a witch hoping to help Oz reclaim the throne to fulfill a prophecy. Theodora's sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) informs Oz that in order to claim the throne and the riches to go along with it he must kill the wicked witch. Oz embarks on a journey with a flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King), where he soon meets Glinda (Michelle Williams) and explores the land further.
When it comes to one of the stronger elements of the film Sam Raimi's direction and use of the 3-D technology is one of the more effective elements of the film. Raimi is master of the horror world with films like Evil Dead, and Drag me to Hell. Within the horror genre Raimi knows how to craft the most intricate yet quirky stories. Raimi moved toward a more family friendly genre with his comic book adaptation of the original Spider-Man series. Raimi's direction with the action at the end of film makes things much more entertaining but not enough to save the experience. Raimi tries his best with the script as written and succeeds in the smallest sense.
Poor Sam Raimi he has one of the most sub par screenplays. Mitchel Kapner (Romeo Must Die), David Lindsey-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) make for interesting combination, and their work never captures the subtle wit and brilliance the world of Oz deserves. If you look at the work of both of these screenwriters neither of their resumes say anything which would prove the capability of writing something could or should have been an important prequel to one of the most important films of all time. This script loses the substance leaving the film with only minimal amounts of style namely the the 3-D.
If you are looking for substance, or even great performances you may at a loss with Oz. The two main standouts within the film are Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz. These two women made this film more bearable allowing me to have more fun with this experience. Although Williams may have be channelling her breathy Marilyn Monroe, but who doesn't love a bombshell. Weisz is sinfully dark, and fantastic; she is one great actress, and sells every element of her role.
While these two leads succeed, Franco and Kunis are beyond miscast in two of the most important roles in this film. Franco tries to be, and I emphasize tries to be this charming con man who fools people into thinking is something he isn't. In this beginning in the traditional black and white Kansas he is meant to be a great magician and then he gets to Oz he is supposed to be this great wizard everyone has been waiting for to save them from the wicked witch. Franco is not believable, nor is he able to make a convincing lead. Kunis on the other hand has proven her acting abilities with her role in Black Swan, but loses ground, and is miscast as spoiler.... the green witch. I felt as though Jackie from That 70's Show was yelling at Kelso with green make up, and her cackle was incredibly laughable.
In the land of Oz there is supposed to be a magical experience, and as the viewer you are meant to transported to this colorful/magical world. Instead you have two sorely miscast actors, with a poorly written script, and ultimately a film that loses the heart of the original Oz experience. Sorry Oz fans this may be the worst experience I have had walking the yellow brick road.