March 7, 2013 Oz The Great And Powerful
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
"Oz The Great And Powerful" picks up at the beginning of the 20th Century, where a small-time magician is practicing his trade at a Kansas carnival. One of the neat things in the film very early on is the carnival's name. It's a wink to Oz's creator.
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a bit of a con artist and a lout, but the fellow who goes by the nickname Oz has big dreams.
He doesn't want to be a good man, he wants to be a great one.
Following a show which doesn't go well, Oz picks a very bad time for a hot air balloon ride because a tornado sends him to the enchanted land of Oz.
He soon meets a witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis) who says he is the promised one who will deliver the land from wickedness. They have a romantic interlude and she proceeds to take him to the Emerald City. That's where her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) explains Oz must defeat the wicked witch in order to claim his rightful place on the throne.
Oz departs the city and along with a flying monkey companion (Zach Braff) he travels the yellow brick road to confront the witch. But when he meets Glinda (Michelle Williams) he learns he's not the only one who's been lying. Together they work to defeat the evil sisters and free the land.
The biggest hurdle with this "Oz" has very little to do with the movie itself. It's because you invariably think back to its classic predecessor and compare one against the other. That's really not fair. In this prequel we learn how the wizard came to be and what caused the wicked witch to be so bad.
In fact, this adventure lays the groundwork for what is destined to happen when Dorothy visits Oz years later.
Franco delivers a nice performance as the two-bit magician who must transform into something more to save his new friends. Kunis, Weisz and Williams are a powerful trio as the new women in Oz's life. He just has a tough time figuring out the good guys from the bad guys.
Director Sam Raimi's pictures are stunning, Oz has never looked better. Plus, the characters we already know are consistent with their well-established personalities. With all of the film's positives, it has some flaws. The motivation that pushes Theodora from good to bad is a bit questionable. And, since this is a prequel we have a pretty good idea what's going to happen and who is going to come out on top. That tends to drain a bit of the tension from the story.
But, that doesn't take away from a very pleasant trip Oz, which this movie imagines we're seeing for the first time. Of course, that's not true, however this chapter is at least along the same lines as its beloved ancestor.
On my rating scale, "Oz the Great and Powerful" earns a TRIPLE.
TWO AND A HALF MEN Tonight at 7:00 PM She'll Still Be Dead at Halftime
Charlie rushes to get a half-naked woman out of his bedroom before Chelsea (Jennifer Taylor) arrives