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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Oz the Great and Powerful | James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Oz the Great and Powerful | James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis | Review

We know what Dorothy did when she got there, but how did the Wizard get to that magical land over the rainbow?  How did Oscar Diggs, the fast-talking carnival magician and insincere ladies man with the cheesy-grin become the prophesied savior of the land known as Oz?

This film answers all of that in a splendidly visual way AFTER the initial black and white introduction, an homage to the 1939 film, taking place in 1905 Kansas and setting the stage for Oscar the flim-flam man to get swept away in a hot-air balloon and deposited in a colorful land of witches, munchkins and the Winkies of the western quadrant.

Diggs meets a pair of sister witches Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz) who warn him of a wicked witch that he will have to vanquish to assume the title King of Oz, but the duo morph into deceitful double trouble based on power-hungry wrath and jealous scorn.  Oscar is one opportunistic operator when it comes to the ladies, but there’s a whole room full of golden treasure at stake.

Then Glinda (Michelle Williams) enters the picture and along with Diggs and his requisite sidekicks, a repaired china doll (Joey King, voice) and a servile, bell-hop-like monkey (Zack Braff, voice) follow the – you guessed it – yellow brick road to a series of adventures that attempt to enlighten us on iconic settings like The Dark Forest, The Poppy Field, the green of the Wicked Witch of the West, and fiery columns of fire flanking a large holographic face.  The search for the real wicked witch leads Diggs on a lengthy, sometimes tedious quest.

Unfortunately, the viewer must tag along on these disappointing excursions, full of lame jokes and clunky, lackluster dialogue, simultaneously losing miles of charm and enchantment along the way.  Interest might be aroused toward the end of the film, when the epic battle between Good and Evil takes place amid explosions and pyrotechnics that can be attributed to a famous American inventor, a wizard in his own right.  At least Diggs gives him some props before taking all the credit for himself.

James Franco’s smirky grin overtakes the screen so many times it becomes annoying rather than effective.  Mila Kunis is wildly miscast (and anachronistically dressed, at first) as Theodora.  Rachel Weisz looks more like a dance hall girl from the 1890’s than a wizard-hunting witch.  Michelle Williams has one good bubble scene to remind us that she is Glinda, albeit in a much more form-fitting gown.

Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spiderman) seems to be overwhelmed by his $200 million budget, and CGI effects become the magic here instead of character interaction or story.  Dazzling visuals are only one aspect of a successful blockbuster.  Invariably the story suffers if SFX are the sole focus.  For some, it is enough (younger elementary school kids).

Others will take the advice of 1939’s Wizard (Frank Morgan) and “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

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