Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: L. Frank Baum, Mitchell Kapner, and David Lindsay-Abaire
Running Time: 127 min
James Franco as Oz, The Wizard
Mila Kunis as Theodora
Rachel Weisz as Evanora
Michelle Williams as Annie/Glinda
Zach Braff as Frank/Finley
Abigail Leigh Spencer as May
"Oz The Great and Powerful" takes us back to the origins of The Wizard of Oz and the evil, wicked witch, much like Batman Begins does for the Batman. As the film begins, we see Oz as a second-rate con man trying to make it as a magician in a traveling carnival. We are taken behind the scenes as he coaches the latest in a long stream of girlfriends on her role as his "volunteer" in the show, and the role of Frank as his under appreciated assistant. When he is visited by Annie, an old flame, we see that he doesn't have a lot of faith in his own "goodness". She tells him that she has received a proposal of marriage, leaving him with an opportunity to turn his life around and begin a respectable life. Sadly, though, he tells her he doesn't really want to lead an upstanding life and so they must part.
It is at this point that he is confronted by the carnival's strong man regarding an indiscretion with his woman. He is able to make a clean getaway on a hot air balloon only to be sucked into the vortex of a raging tornado. After being knocked around from hither to thither, he finds himself smack in the middle of a fantastical land with brilliantly colored flowers, river fairies, and a beautiful, mysterious witch called Theodora. She tells him that he must be their king, Oz, for whom they have been waiting. He's pretty sure he's not the right person, but after he sees a room full of gold and riches, he decides to play along.
He is soon introduced to Theodora's sister, Evanora, who tells him about the wicked witch and enlists his help to destroy her. His task is to go to the dark forest and break the wicked witch's wand. But when he gets there, he discovers that the wicked witch is actually Glinda, the good witch. She takes him to the Emerald City and there he meets the townspeople. Glinda convinces him that he is their only salvation against Evanora, the real wicked witch. So a plan is hatched to bring Evanora down. Meanwhile, Evanora has brought Theodora over to the dark side through the use of a poisoned apple. And Theodora takes to her new evil nature (and hideous look) with a passion. Together, the two evil witches set out to bring down the new wizard and his beautiful, pure sidekick.
I won't ruin the ending for you, but it is extremely clever. I actually liked this film even though I didn't have high expectations going in. Even though I like James Franco, I've always found him to be a bit flat. But as Oz, he is as animated as I've ever seen him. He is likable to the point of being adorable.
Michelle Williams is good as Glinda, but appears to be channeling her performance as Marilyn Monroe just a bit. There is no denying that she has the perfect look as the good witch, with her long flowing blond hair and porcelain skin.
Mila Kunis is very good as Theodora, with her huge eyes set against a scarlet red hat and jacket and black leather pants. She still has some goodness in her when first we meet her, but that is short-lived. As the evil witch that she becomes, she is suitably hideous and scary.
Rachel Weisz is such a seasoned actress that I'm pretty sure there isn't a role she can't carry. And she is ruthless as the wicked witch Evanora. Even her beauty is wrathful. But peeking just below the surface is a vulnerability that finally leads to her undoing.
The film begins in black and white, transitioning to color as he lands in Oz. The colors are brilliant and delightful. The costumes are fresh and imaginative. And the direction is good. I would recommend this film. I will also add that I saw this with my 7 year old son and he liked it as well. Other than a few chaste kisses, there wasn't anything inappropriate (other than a bad word in one of the previews-Really?!).
You can catch it in theaters for now. Thanks for stopping by and getting buzzed!
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