¨I don’t want to be a good man. I want to be a great one.¨
It´s no easy task to make a prequel of the successful and timeless 1939 family classic, The Wizard of Oz, but Sam Raimi (director of the Spider Man trilogy and The Evil Dead) was up to the task. Raimi does pay a wonderful homage to some of the iconic images of the classical movie thanks to some great and colorful visual effects, but the story doesn’t work as well. It is kind of the same problem I had with Tim Burton´s Alice in Wonderland where the story doesn’t match to the wondrous visuals. I still had a fun time with this film as the nostalgia ended up playing a key role here. The screenplay was co-written by Mitchell Kapner (The Whole 9 Yards) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole), adapted from L. Frank Baum´s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite not having a great story, it does become suspenseful towards the end and hooked my attention. The opening sequences however were slow and lacked a decent pacing. The visuals end up being a distraction over the impoverished story, but kids will enjoy this film nonetheless. Parents will also be entertained and filled with nostalgia like I was; but it will be inevitable to compare this movie to the classical one, and it does fall short story wise. You still have to take your hat off to Sam Raimi who took the risk and came up with a decent film, but somehow in a cinematic world where we are used to seeing visual spectacles like Hogwarts, Middle Earth, and Narnia you can´t carry a film on the visuals alone. You need compelling characters, and unfortunately here the most memorable characters are unlikely ones (a porcelain doll and a winged monkey).
The film focuses its attention on Oz, short for Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician from Kansas who ends up being blown away by a tornado to the wonderful land of Oz. Once he arrives at Oz, he meets a beautiful witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis) who explains how they have been waiting for him because a prophecy claims that a wizard would arrive at Oz and defeat the evil witch who poisoned her own father, the king of Emerald City. The long awaited wizard could become King if he is able to defeat the witch and protect the land. Oz, who isn’t a very moral fellow, is interested in becoming great so he accepts as long as he can keep all the gold. He ignores telling her that he isn’t actually a real wizard. What Theodora and Oz don’t know is that her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), has lied to everyone in Emerald City about the evil witch Glinda (Michelle Williams). Evanora is actually the evil witch who is trying to get rid of Glinda and take over Oz. During his mission Oz runs into some unlikely allies like Finley (Zach Braff) a winged monkey and a porcelain doll named China Girl (Joey King) before discovering the truth about Glinda and Evanora. This is the story of Oz and how he came to this land and made a name for himself.
There isn’t much greatness about Oz, but the story still works as pure entertainment for the family. There seems to be an underlying silly tone to the whole movie and James Franco knows it and plays along with his role. He doesn’t seem to be taking himself too seriously and neither should we. This isn’t a classical film, but it does remind us of the magical 1939 film and that alone makes this worth the while. Disney has us used to these clichés about believing in ourselves and achieving our dreams, and Oz is full of them. The film continually reminds us that it could have been much better, but the magic still seems to be present. The best characters are the ones voiced by Zach Braff and Joey King. They have the funniest scenes and make the movie much more enjoyable. Michelle Williams is also a pleasure to watch as the sweet and innocent Glinda. There isn’t really much more I can say about this film, if you are a fan of the original film then you might want to see this for pure nostalgic reasons but don’t expect it to be as good as that classic movie. It has its moments and overall it is an enjoyable and entertaining movie.