From acclaimed and accomplished director Sam
Raimi comes the latest big-budget IMAX 3D adventure adapted from classic source material.
Two years ago, Tim Burton gave us the disappointing, but wildly successful “Alice In Wonderland”,
and it’s easy to see the similarities with this heavily computer-assisted 130-minute
adventure. A spiritual prequel to L. Frank Baum’s novel, and indirectly to the 1939 classic,
this PG-13 rated adventure unexpectedly soars when many lesser attempts would have faltered.
The talented and frenzied James Franco stars as the title character, a small-time circus
magician and charlatan who suddenly finds himself whisked away from 1905 Kansas in a
terrible tornado while riding in his hot air balloon. In a lovely, and immensely effective
nod to the original, the movie then transitions from a drab black-and-white 4:3 frame to a
vibrant and breathtaking colorful 2:1 aspect ratio… aided wonderfully by impeccable use
of 3D, and comfortable editing, truly brining the land of Oz to life like never before.
Since Disney doesn’t own any rights to the MGM version, this version doesn’t feature
as many familiar elements as fans of the franchise might like. You won’t find any ruby slippers,
musical numbers, or talking scarecrows here. The stunning visuals alone are enough reason
to check this movie out, which I predict will quickly break the one billion dollar mark.
Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all play familiar witches… with one eventually
transforming into the green-skinned, water-fearing menace we all know and love. When that actress
does transform however, it is plainly evident how miscast she was in the complicated and
iconic role. As Oz’s trusted assistant, Zach Braff lends his voice to a flying, talking
monkey – in a role that surprisingly works really well: his jokes are funny, and he never
gets too annoying or stupid – which is why the character’s near-disappearance from the
picture halfway through was an unfortunate development. Franco excels
in the lead role, perfectly balancing the charm of a stage performer with the regret
of a con-man wishing for more, confessing early, “I don’t want to be a good man… I
want to be a great man”. When he’s rather spectacularly transported to the world that
bears his namesake, it provides him with an opportunity at redemption. Few of the other
characters, which also includes a beautifully rendered CGI talking China Doll voiced by
Joey King, or veteran Bill Cobbs briefly featured as an old machine-tinkerer, receive any substantial
background. Although it loses steam a bit during a longer middle portion, the explosive
grand finale is extremely enjoyable, as it conjures up images and memories of that famous
scene with the “man behind the curtain”. Danny Elfman’s whimsical score works well right
out of the gate, as we’re witness to a clever opening credits sequence in the style of string
puppets and cardboard cut-outs. This PG-rated fantasy has plenty of fun moments for the
entire family – delivering a truly enjoyable experience that is faithful to the tone and
wonder-inspiring visuals of the original. Despite some narrative and pacing missteps,
“Oz The Great And Powerful” is “Visually stunning and wonderfully familiar.” Now lets read some
reviews from the Movie Night audience. “The Great And Powerful Oz” – A DOUBLE EIGHT.
You loved the visuals, but weren’t as impressed by Kunis’s character, ultimately scoring it
a GREAT. I thought this was a beautiful, inventive, and faithful adaptation to the essence that
made the original so spectacular and memorable. Time will tell if this adventure has the same
staying power, but it worked really well, I thought it was GREAT.