So many of the reviews I’ve read of Oz The Great and Powerful have been insistent that the movie is a soulless vehicle for special effects while waxing nostalgic about 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, although that was also a hugely expensive special effects extravaganza.
To me, the special effects are indispensable when it comes to Oz. That’s part of the magic. I actually paid to see Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D, rather than Regular D. It seemed appropriate. Baum’s Oz is a fantastic world. It deserves fantastic treatment.
And this Oz looks fantastic.
Personally, I loved Oz The Great and Powerful. Not as much as the Judy Garland movie, but it was a worthy tribute to the original while making it accessible to modern kids. Old fashioned while still being new. Like last year’s John Carter (shut up, I still bloody love that movie), Oz The Great and Powerful captured the spirit of a time when going to the cinema was an adventure in itself.
What Oz suffered from more than anything was casting.
Rachel Weisz is wonderfully malicious as Evanorah, the Wicked Witch of the East (who will have a house dropped on her later in life). She’s so nice. Like that one manipulative bitch we all have in the office. But, with green lightning coming out of her hands.
Michelle Williams is a different kind of Glinda, more of a hands-on, freedom fighter type than a “Let’s let a teenage girl with fabulous shoes do it all for us!” type. She’s a different Glinda, but Williams is convincing.
Which brings me to James Franco and Mila Kunis. I like both of them. I really do. Just not so much in these roles.
I can almost buy James Franco as a podunk carnival con-artist because I think the guy really is a charlatan. Seriously. A couple years ago he taught a college class about himself. I keep waiting for Franco to come out with a documentary about how he conned the world into thinking he’s a great actor/scholar when he’s really just a super motivated stoner. He’s not terrible as Oz; he’s just so obviously James Franco. So many other actors would have been better in this role.
Mila Kunis is horribly miscast as the Wicked Witch of the West. She does the pre-wicked Theodora part just fine. She’s really good at the rom-com stuff: brief, fiery outbursts and moments of crazed clinginess. When the Wicked green part comes around, Kunis is acting like she’s in your high school drama club’s production of The Wizard of Oz. As the Wicked Witch of the West, she was only terrifying when she didn’t speak.
That wasn’t enough to ruin the whole movie for me, though. There’s still so much I liked. What I liked most was how Oz defeated the wicked witches and saved the land. It wasn’t magic – it was brains and courage. Which is just the kind of old fashioned we always need.