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‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ isn’t that great and powerful after all

William Wright, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 26, 2013

'Doah photo courtesy of 'Oz the Great and Powerful' official website

‘Doah photo courtesy of ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ official website

Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a magician for a traveling circus who longs for something more. In the course of a normal day he abuses his assistant, does fake magic and hits on every pretty girl within eyeshot. After one particularly bad workday, Diggs ends up in a hot air balloon and is caught in a tornado. He wakes up the next day in the world of Oz. Believed to be the savior spoken about in legends, who will save Oz from evil, he must do everything in his abilities to fight the enemies of Oz.

I did not see the “The Wizard of Oz” until my late teens and have not read any of the books, so I am judging this film as a standalone piece. It caught my attention because it was directed by Sam Raimi, known in the industry for his horror-comedy series “The Evil Dead” and for directing the mid-2000s Spiderman trilogy. His fun style can be silly and over-the-top, but still has the ability to bring on the intensity when the situation warrants it.

Sadly, I found this film to be a disappointment. With the same producers as Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” it has a lot of the same problems as that movie. To start with, the main defense of both pictures is the beautiful cinematography.

While I agree that “Oz” was not hard on the eyes, some of the effects clashed with each other. Things were either very realistic-looking or extremely cartoony, and did not blend. Other effects came off as underwhelming, such as when the iconic Wicked Witch is revealed. She appeared rather dull-looking, no more grand than a cheap Halloween costume.

The cast can only be described as mediocre. Franco does an alright job as the con artist Diggs/Oz, and believably plays the fool. Mila Kunis as Theodora comes off very hammy. Her “acting” sad is just pitiful. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, as the witches Evanora and Glinda, do nothing particularly memorable in their thankless jobs as opposing points on the good-evil spectrum.

There are only two actors who I felt really owned their characters. The first was Zach Braff as Finley, the flying monkey sidekick of Oz. He knows his master’s secret and while loyal, will criticize Oz at any time and gives the viewer a comedic performance reminiscent of Billy Crystal.

The second actor is Joey King as China Girl, in what I think is the best special effect in the film. She looks and moves how one would guess a china doll would move, and you find yourself worrying that she might break completely. In a film where I had very little reaction to most of the characters, I found myself reacting strongly to every emotion King gave in her performance.

The biggest problem in this film is the writing. The pacing over its 127 minutes is terrible. Everything is a race to get to the ending, and that hurts other elements of the story.  We don’t really get the feeling of what is expected of Oz. He is told he is the wizard in the beginning of the film and that is it. The betrayal of Theodora that turns her into the Wicked Witch seems silly as it is based off a relationship that is short and never fully developed.

In the end, since there is no real time invested in having us understand the characters or their world, the viewers have no reason to care about anything that happens in the story. Overall, I give “Oz the Great and Powerful” a 3.0 for cool images and some good acting.

What do you think?

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