Weekend Roundup: Oz The Great and Powerful review

It’s the last week of March already, but Spring is arriving VERY s-l-o-w-l-y here in Minnesota. By around the same time last year, we’re already in mid 60s, I think some people were wearing shorts on St. Patrick’s Day? This year, I’d be thrilled to see mid 40s by next weekend!

I did see a movie that made me feel quite Spring-y with the bright and colorful landscape filled with gorgeous colors and of course, a rainbow!

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If you’re curious whether people who have not seen the original would enjoy this prequel, well I for one can tell you that YES, absolutely you could! In a way I feel that I actually have the advantage of knowing hardly anything of the story, apart from what the wicked witch look like and knowing some of the lyrics of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. You might be amused that the only time I heard this song being played in a movie is from John Woo’s action-packed Face/Off, ahah.

My friend asked me if I wanted to see a matinee showing and I went in with tepid expectations after reading the mediocre reviews. Well, I’m glad to report that I was NOT disappointed. Far from it, it really was a wonderful 2-hour escapist entertainment!

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First of all, the opening title sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful and creative, definitely brings you right into the carnival world where Oscar works as a small time magician with dubious ethics. He soon gets into trouble, which leads him to a hot air balloon that transports him away from Kansas to the colorful Land of Oz. The movie turns from black and white to color and oh, what a feast for the eyes. I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of Oz. Sam Raimi truly turns the movie magic on with this one, I was practically ooh-aah-ing the gorgeous cinematography, special effects and spectacular landscape. Every creature is pretty amusing to look at, yes even the weird ones like the river fairies!

In this magical land is where Oscar meets the three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are all skeptical that he’s the great wizard everyone’s been waiting for. Oscar himself didn’t really want to continue deceiving them at first, that is until Evanora shows him all the gold he’d have if he becomes King. The inner struggle of choosing good over evil is something we’ve all identified with, and Oscar soon realized how high the stakes are for the people of Oz, though we’re never sure of his true motive until the very end.

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I’ve told you about the visuals, now acting-wise, I still think Johnny Depp would’ve been much better in the role of Oscar Diggs instead of James Franco, but he ends up being all right here. I know his character is supposed to be this egotistical smug, but Franco plays it far to literally that he comes across annoying instead of amusing. He has this weird, awkward grin that made me cringe, it just took me out of the movie as I wanted to smack him! I also don’t buy him as this irresistible man who could get all these stunning women to fall in love with him. Fortunately he redeemed himself as the film progresses, in fact I think he was quite good in the touching scene with the China Doll.  His fun companies on his journey on the yellow brick road certainly helps, I love Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and China Girl (voiced by Joey King) who both owed their lives to Oscar.

The real stars of the film for me are the spectacular visuals and the three female actresses. It’s inspired casting to get Kunis and Weisz as sisters as they have similar features. Both look ravishing in their costumes, especially Weisz in the sparkly, feathered black frock. One particular scenes of them together is crucial to the story and I think both actresses acquit themselves well, though I can’t speak for fans of the original on this one. In contrast, Williams projects delicate beauty as the good witch Glinda. She practically looks like a cross between Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora and Cinderella in her silky white dress and crystal tiara. People might say it’s a boring role as she’s good through and through, but Williams is so effortlessly sympathetic and she did her best with what she was given.

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I find the story to be quite absorbing and even hilarious at times. I could see how the L. Frank Baum’s cretion has become a pop-culture phenomenon, not only with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but also the smash hit Broadway play Wicked. One of the primary keys to a great tale is memorable characters, and this movie is full of them. The wicked witch and how she became that way is certainly the main draw, but the supporting characters are entertaining as well. Finley delivers a lot of laughs, the scene of him mooing had me in stitches. Though I’ve never been into dolls, China Girl is so adorable and cute I wish I could take her home for myself!! The citizens of Oz are full of quirky bunch as well, though I had the same reaction as Oscar when the munchkins started to burst into song, ahah. Ah well, this is a Disney movie after all.

Danny Elfman‘s beautiful score definitely helps transport you into another world. I really think Raimi and co did a great job here, and perhaps the fact that I couldn’t compare it to the original gives the film an advantage. But I wonder if having seen the original would make me like this less, I don’t know if that’d be the case.

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Final Thoughts: If you want to lose yourself in a fantastical world for two hours on Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse. I was massively entertained and the few corny scenes (those romantic scenes between Franco & Kunis came to mind) did not derail the film for me. I didn’t see the 3D version and whilst I thought the visuals was still splendid in that format, I’d think the 3D version would’ve been worth it for this one.


4 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this one? Anyone else love it as much as I did?