Oz the Great and Powerful

Mar 8, 2013

Some real magic needed with this extravaganza.

Oz the Great and Powerful
Grade: C-
Director: Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan)
Screenplay: Michael Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards), David Lindsay-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians) from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Cast: James Franco (127 Hours), Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Rating: PG
Runtime: 130 min
by John DeSando

“You're capable of more than you know...” Glinda [to Oz]

Given the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Oz the Great and Powerful, Disney was able of doing  much more than it obviously knew. Its  film, directed by the otherwise savvy Sam Raimi, pales in comparison to The Wizard of Oz because of its flaccid script and unwise casting.

This prequel tells of OZ (James Franco) landing in Oz and eventually overcoming odds to establish himself as the wizard despite the fact that he is a self-described con man. For starters, Franco is egregiously miscast, lacking the facial and verbal gifts, and eccentric, nuanced interpretations of Robert Downey Jr., whom Disney originally wanted for the role. Except for his smile, not much humor comes out of Franco, try as he might.

Better, but not by much, are the three beautiful witches: guileless Glinda (Michelle Williams), clueless Theodora (Mila Kunis), and ruthless Evanora (Rachel Weisz).  With nothing more than predictable lines, the three are no match for Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton. Go see the musical Wicked for some really interesting witches.

Then there’s the screenplay that lacks even one memorable line (Just think of any line from the original film, such as “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” and you’ll miss every other now iconic line. Certainly In OZ the Great and Powerful, one of Finley the monkey’s lines hardly qualifies as great: “Of course I love bananas, I'm a monkey! Don't be ridiculous!”

The 3D, costuming, and photography are first-rate if only Oscar voters will remember at the end of this year. The sequences involving the inventions of Thomas Alva Edison are pleasant.  Yet, why is Disney distributing this expensive failure in March anyway?  Could it be the studio knows it’s neither “wonderful” nor great and powerful? It’s just a weak film in need of a few musical numbers, better dialogue, and a different cast.  That’s not much to ask for over 200 million dollars, is it?

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel.
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