Oz: the Great but Mediocre

James Franco puts on the top hat of Oz.

James Franco puts on the top hat of Oz.

I was looking forward to seeing my first 2013 released movie this weekend and to write a review about a decent movie. When I saw that Oz: the Great and Power  was the first movie I actually was interested in seeing, I was happy. A interesting ensemble cast with a competent director with the money of Disney behind it had to be a  clear winner right? I thought so, but I still had my skepticism.

James Franco helms the lead character, Oscar Diggs (Oz), a magician in his own right, who is aiming to break the barriers of his own limits. When an unfortunate tornado sucks him in and launches him over the rainbow, he finds himself in the land of his namesake. Theodora, played by Mila Kunis, finds him and informs him that prophecy tells of him saving the land of Oz. From there, Oz needs to find his greatness in his skill by putting himself behind the priority for once.

Oz: the Great and Powerful is a satisfying but underwhelming prequel to the classic of 1939.Clearly, this is a homage to the source material. There are many references that point to specifics to the original, but not a major one that could have easily been sneaked in and could have resonated strongly in the audience. The movie is full of missed opportunities. Oz’s core is around how essentially he’s a fraud who uses that to manipulate but help others. Even though it’s brought up a few times in plot and is the main attribute in the finale, it should have and could have been the driving force behind his actions. It would have made Franco more of an interesting character and maybe drew more of my sympathy.

It’s no secret that the iconic Wicked Witch of the West takes a role in the movie. But this rendition could have been more tasteful. First, make her more ugly. Her wickedness was spot on, but her cosmetics and voice could have gone through a de-makeover. Also, her arc to evil made me sympathize with her more than I wanted to which is a disservice to the original rendition.

Michelle Williams plays Glinda the Good Witch, and without being over-the-top sweet like the original, she balances it with true early Hollywood charm. Her performance was the only stand-out of the mix.

Lastly, the CG was sub par at best.  It was going for the Alice in Wonderland world building with full CG but couldn’t fill the frame with enough authenticity to really keep me in the universe.

Overall, it wasn’t a deadbeat, good for nothing movie. Even though I had problems with the pieces that went into the whole, I like what the whole looked like. It was a faithful reinvention and homage to an untouchable classic.