Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

THE SETUP: Years before a Kansas girl named Dorothy clicked her ruby slippers, a carny/con-man/magician (James Franco) with delusions of grandeur gets “blown” to a magical world of witches, emerald cities and flying monkeys. Will he prove to be a great man, or fail to even be a good one?

THE THOUGHTS: Stories that are dripping in nostalgia or at least familiar to the public, are gold in Hollywood. It’s why we get super-hero, Twilight and Transformer movies. And, with the success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, it looks like our childhood films/fantasies are next to be targeted. Hello Sam Raimi‘s Oz, the Great and Powerful. Franco is a guy we’ve seen a million times before: a man who wants to be famous when there’s more value in the people around him. A common morality tale, but this one is about the guy who (70+ year spoiler alert) eventually becomes the Wizard of Oz.

YAYS: How did the world of Oz look? AMAZING. From the yellow brick road to gravity defying waterfalls to vast poppy fields, the look and feel of this world was stunning. And to really help it along was some of the best 3D I’ve experienced in ages, pulling you even further into an already pretty vivid picture. Though shown in the trailer, the transition from small town Kansas to the “Wonderful World of Oz” was a really great way of demonstrating scope and impact. It all gets a wow.

I haven’t read the books or seen the original movie in years but I still could appreciate the winks and nods to the source material. From the Wizard’s big demonstration of power, to scarecrows and lions, to the wicked witch, to the look of the Emerald City, it all went nicely with the history that we know. And even the additions of a flying monkey bellhop, tinkerers and a china girl were welcome additions.

NAYS: Franco, oh sweet Franco. Smiling big isn’t the same thing as acting. Though most of the characters were really one dimensional with little to no character development (exception being Mila Kunis‘ character but even then, switching between two emotions really isn’t “deep”), they were at least committed to this fantasy world. Really digging in and enjoying the material. The character we are suppose to connect with most and root for, seemed to be holding back or at least not making us feel for him. I get that he was an outsider to this world, but he seemed to be an outsider to this film.

NAYSAYERS: I’ve seen a few reviews that really attacked the dialogue in this film. I’m not going to say the script is going to win any Academy Awards but at the same time, this movie is based on a 1939 film and books from the early 1900s. Would it have been better with snide, hipster remarks? Modern references? Edgey banter? No. The dialogue had a storybook/fairytale quality to it that fit well.


3 stars  good movie, take a friend. Nostalgia will play a big part in whether you love this movie or not. And if you’re a fan of James Franco. It was a fun return trip to a world we fondly remember, that definitely lends itself better on the big screen in 3D. Think of it as a trip from your fantasy travel agent that just happens to be a decently adventurous fairy tale.

Random Recommendations

The Fall (2006) – a fantasy world is a great place for you to better understand the real one. The Oz stories are great for that, and so was this film about an injured soldier telling a tale to a little girl. One of the more creatively beautiful and vivid movies you’ll see, it’s a great mix of tragedy, betrayal, joy and redemption…and that’s just the real world tale.

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