The Wizard of Oz is a classic film loved by all. Who doesn’t love watching Dorothy wander down the yellow brick road in search of the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sadly Dorothy discovers that the great and all-knowing powerful Oz is just a mere mortal hiding behind a curtain and not a wizard at all. He explains to Dorothy that he really is a good man but just a bad wizard.
Did you ever wonder exactly how Oz became the all knowing and powerful Wizard of Oz? How exactly did he wind up in the Land of Oz in the first place? And why is he pretending to be a Wizard anyway? Disney’s fantasy adventure Oz the Great and Powerful attempts to answer these questions in this prequel to the classic Wizard of Oz.
The film directed by Sam Raimi in many aspects stays true to the Wizard of Oz. Like the classic film it opens in Kansas in black and white. Immediately you are drawn into the life of ladies man and carnival con artist Oscar Diggs ,Oz played by James Franco. We quickly learn that Oscar strives for greatness but is often disappointed himself and often feels he isn’t a good man.
Desperate to avoid the wrath of the circus strong man who is chasing him in angry rage he escapes in a hot air ballon. Within minutes of his narrow escape he is whisked away by a tornado and lands beyond the rainbow in the vibrant Land of Oz. We are treated to a amazing 3-D landscape in full color as Oz meets the first of three witches Theodora, portrayed by Mila Kunis. Theodora is enthralled with Oz and believes he is the wizard they have been waiting for to fulfill the prophecy and restore peace to Oz. Greedy and short on ethics Oz is happy to pretend he is the actual Wizard in order to gain the throne and riches of the Emerald City.
Unfortunately for Oz, The Land of Oz’s two remaining witches Glinda, Michelle Williams, and Evanora, Rachel Weisz see right through his sham and see him for who he really is. In the end he must band with the people of Oz to fight the evil witches and free the people and restore peace.
James Franco is vulnerable and loveable as Oz. You find yourself cheering for him and hoping he will transform into the good person he wants to be. He might not be a wizard but he uses slight of hand and smoke and mirrors to help save the day.
The movie was wonderful. Although the story is Oz’s there are several references to the original movie and several “ah ha” moments where you learn things like why the wicked witch is so wicked or why the cowardly lion is so cowardly. I love back stories.
And just as Dorothy met characters in Oz who echoed real people she knew in Kansas Oz does as well. Notably Zach Braff, his assistant in Kansas becomes the voice of Finley the flying monkey who becomes Oz’s companion in The Land of Oz.
One major difference between the prequel and the classic film is the absence of music. There are no memorable show tunes in this production but I believe it has more than it needs to be an instant new classic.
Oz the Great and Powerful gets three big thumbs up from my husband, daughter and I. I love movies that are enjoyable for the whole family. I was originally concerned it would be too scary but my 9 year old loved it and wasn’t scared at all. A great night out at the movies.