Oz can put a smile on your dial
Josephine Rozenberg-Clarke checks out the latest movie to be inspired by L.Frank Baum’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:
I should start this review by revealing two things about me:
1. I am a huge James Franco fan.
2. I am a Disney tragic.
I feel these points are important, because if you don’t share these characteristics, you may not love Oz: The Great and Powerful. Sure, it may be directed by cult hero Sam Raimi – the brains behind offbeat hits like Evil Dead and A Simple Plan – but in Oz, the trademark Disney cheese is laid on nice and thick.
It follows the unlikely tale of Oscar (James Franco), an arrogant two-bit magician who makes his living conning gullible country folk as part of a travelling circus. He’s greedy, self-centred, and rude to his assistant (Zach Braff). He’s also a charming man-whore, and it is those man-whoring ways that lead to him escaping an angry circus colleague in a hot air balloon. See, Oscar has slept with the guy’s missus, so karma (or fate?) leads that balloon right into the eye of a classic Kansas twister. Cue some effects that will make you jump (and then act cool, like nothing happened) as all sorts of objects come flying towards the audience. Raimi has really had fun with the 3D in this movie, and the results are super effective. Note: this is coming from someone who usually loathes it.
Anyway, poor Oscar crash-lands in Oz, a very odd place indeed – a land where murderous winged baboons screech through the skies, tiny water fairies attack, and where witches look as flawless as Mila Kunis. Kunis, as Theodora, rescues Oscar from the badlands and totes him back to Emerald City – where her glitteringly icy sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) awaits. See, Oscar’s arrival had been expected in this wacky land, but to fulfill the prophecy and become the king, “The Great Wizard” must first defeat the thoroughly diabolical Wicked Witch of the West. Obviously, this is where the fun begins. Braff pops up again to join the quest (as a winged monkey who becomes Oscar’s sidekick) and there are also munchkins, a feisty talking china doll, a sassy manservant and naturally, another witchy sister – the glorious Glinda (Michelle Williams).
It’s a fast-paced and colourful journey, and even though this is hardly James Franco at his best, he has fun with it. As someone who can take himself a bit too seriously as an actor, it’s refreshing to see him loosen up. The same goes for Michelle Williams, whose resume contains some pretty dark subject matter. I like to think she can take her daughter to see this movie without needing to cover her eyes (apart from the scene where Oscar and company are chased down by the flying baboons – I’m 27 and I was freaking out). Yes, the kids will love it, but adults will enjoy the babin’ cast, witty one-liners and truly spectacular visual effects.
Oz: The Great and Powerful isn’t particularly great or powerful, but after sitting through the emotionally heavy awards season fare (Amour, anyone?), this well-crafted upper will put a smile on your dial. And sometimes, that’s just what you need.
Review by Josephine Rozenberg-Clarke.