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Oz the Great and Powerful - Movie Review

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Oz the Great and Powerful - Movie Review

2 stars

Disney’s $200-million return to the wonderful world of Oz is neither great nor powerful.  It is interesting that Sam Raimi, director of The Evil Dead series and the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man franchise, returns to the quick camera angles and darkly-tinged moments of his early career with a Disney flick, though.  Those somewhat inspired kinetic moments; however, are few and far apart.  And between each and every one of those frames is a dangerously miscast James Franco as The Wizard who is all toothy grins and greasy hair and severely lacking in leading man aplomb.

Oz the Great and Powerful opens with a nice 20-minute black & white segment set in an early 1900’s rural Kansas.  No, it’s not a farmhouse.  This time it’s a carnival.  Oscar Diggs (Franco) is a womanizing magician and all-around fraud and his tired assistant (Zach Braff) covers up for him nicely.  As with the original 1939 Wizard of Oz, most of the cast appears in this opening homage which stylistically recaptures the acting mode of the late 1930s and ends with Franco getting caught up in another Kansas twister.

Enter the 3D.  Exit the intelligence.

Suddenly, the frame ratio changes and the colors seep in and … the magic mostly stops.  Oscar – maybe because of his top hat or his moustache – is assumed to be the long-prophesized Wizard of Oz by the eager-eyed Theodora (Mila Kunis).  When he learns of the wealth he is to inherit after the killing of the Wicked Witch, Oscar Diggs ceases to be in name.  He is The Wizard only and – after seeing the Emerald City and meeting Evanora (Rachel Weisz) – sets out to rid Oz of, well, the wrong witch.  That’s right.  Evanora is the evil one and she wants her sister, the sweet Glinda (Michelle Williams), dead.

Teaming up with a scene-stealing CGI flying monkey named Finley (voiced by Braff) and a China doll (Joey King), The Wizard sets off to do the best that he can do … as a con artist … not as a hero.  Yes, this is more of the post-modern “not the hero we need just the hero we get” storyline that screenwriters love to fall back on.  Written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, Oz the Great and Powerful, while inviting comparisons between the original and itself in sneaky ways in order to avoid copyright infringement, suffers from a serious lack of emotion, any originality and, with a lagging middle, makes the extended edition of The Return of the King feel sitcom-length.

Outside of the opening segment, the other positive notes are some of Raimi’s direction choices.  They are smart and active and most certainly push the PG boundary a bit.  It’s a big-budgeted golly gee whiz special effects orgasm to be sure but Raimi does bring a level of intelligent kitsch – and inspired animation - into the proceedings that are momentarily exciting before he disappears again into Oz’s dense fog of incoherent storytelling.  Some of the quick cuts and camera zooms are effective in capturing the (probable) intended mood of the picture.  But it is the dark moments of the film – the trip through the Dark Forest - where he excels in scaring the poop out of younger audiences.  Maybe he holds back more than he should but, hey, it’s Walt Disney – it’s to be expected.

It’s when the special effects take over that ultimately kills the picture.  The entrance into Oz is supposed to be the “ohhh” and “aahhh” moment of the film and – due to its rollercoaster-like cheapened zeal – does neither.  The 3D effects are often gamey and, if this is intended in order to match the look of the original picture, that tone is never established by the uneven use of poor prosthetics, interesting animation, and dicey green screen moments.  The $200 million is all for naught…especially when the script drops momentum as much as it does.

This is not the 3D wizard you are looking for.  That one, if Warner Bros keeps their promise to fans of the 1939 version, is happening later in the year.

Oz the Great and Powerful - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
Runtime:
130 mins.
Director
: Sam Raimi
Writer
: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Cast: James Franco; Michelle Williams; Mila Kunis; Rachel Weisz; Zach Braff
Genre
: Fantasy | Adventure
Tagline:
The land you know. The story you don't.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I don't want to be a good man... I want to be a great one."
Distributor:
Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site:
disney.go.com/thewizard
Release Date: March 8, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Synopsis: Disney's fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum's beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot--fame and fortune are his for the taking--that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity--and even a bit of wizardry--Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

oz the Great and Powerful - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 11, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, Italian, Russian
Dubbed: Italian, Russian, Ukrainian
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Disc Classifaction: PG
Discs:
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A,B,C

Well, it’s a shame the movie isn’t as impressive as the picture, because as far as movies released this year on blu ray, you will find nothing to make a HD display pop with rich colour and vibrancy like this movie. The AVC 1080p encode is all but flawless. Other sites have noted some crush in dark portions of the picture, but I’m either going blind or didn’t notice them. Same can be said of the immersive DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack that will leave your speakers in a sweat. Extras are average, with mostly short featurettes on offer about certain parts of production. Collectively, they do provide a decent amount of information about the movie and its contributors.

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