Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – Movie Review

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The story behind the origin of the wizard of Oz is revealed in Sam Raimi’s telling of this outlandish tale. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a small time, circus magician conning all in his presence, just to make a living.  His corrupt morals are fashioned out of good intent, but cowardice is his most challenging hurdle.  It seems Oscar must learn to believe in himself and others, in order to realize his dreams.

We meet young Oscar bewitching yet another lovely lady, with a trite story and a plastic smile. He’s broke and breaking hearts on his quest to fame and fortune. Oscar feels his talents are under appreciated and that he’s doing the best that he can, but he’s wrong; all he is doing is running.  Caught in a love triangle, he’s chased from his circus camp and whilst fleeing, he is sucked into the calamity of a tornado and subsequently spit out in the Land of Oz.

Theodora (Mila Kunis) is the first to greet Oscar.  She’s beautiful, optimistic and a tad clingy.  Theodora emerges as a flawed beauty and Oscar simply cannot help, but play her like a fine violin. Theodora, having witnessed Oscar’s arrival in Oz, is convinced that he is the great wizard her land has been desperately awaiting. She immediately warms up to Oscar and begins his technicolor journey to the Emerald City.  Oscar learns that he must now meet with Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) to confirm his rightful place as the king of Oz.

While Evanora’s not convinced, Theodora thinks she’s found her man.  The clearly unstable and powerful Evanora, sends Oscar on a quest to vanquish the ‘wicked’ witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), so he can finally free the people of Oz, from her rule.

On his journey, Oscar meets a flying monkey that later becomes his faithful servant.  This bell-hoppin monkey’s name is Finley (Zach Braff ). Finley becomes a partner to Oz early on,  but one China Girl (Joey King) crosses the duo’s path and melts both their hearts instantly. Oscar’s tiniest companion comes in the form of a china doll he pieces back together and saves from her war torn town. Together, these three set out to save the Land of Oz.

James Franco does an exceptional job of pulling off a smart balance of vaudevillian entertainment, dramatic acting and modern-day, deadpan comedy.  The cinematic techniques used throughout to evoke a sense of a time past, are highly effective.   Franco’s performance compliments these techniques nicely.  It looks like (yet again) I underestimated someone’s acting ability and I should have known better.

Michelle William’s portrayal of Glinda the Good is spot on for an updated version of a powerful and noble, grass-roots leader. She is understated as is her nature and talent. Williams radiates the positivity we all posses, that which get’s us through the shit storms and enables us to go on fighting the good fight. She’s a cheeky monkey as well and I love that about this performance. Her exaggerated good nature is perfectly sweet and infinitely clever.

Rachel Weisz held her own, but her performance fell somewhat flat.  While not bad overall, some aspects were bland when they should have been fantastical in order to keep up with the pace and scale of the movie. Had she pushed harder, she might have further fine-tuned the magic this movie conjures.

The most surprisingly emotional performances are owed to the animated characters, Finely and China Girl.  I must admit, when the cartoon, flying monkey showed up to take Oz /Oscar’s bag, I rolled my eyes thinking, “Oh great, they just fucked everything up,” but I was wrong.   I was doubly surprised that I enjoyed it since  I have somewhat of an aversion to Zack Braff.  Despite all this, I am here to tell you:

There is no, not liking the monkey.  If you leave the theater not loving the monkey, you are clearly dead inside.

china doll

The same goes for China Girl.  Her sweet song of a voice and delicate nature make you fall instantly in love with this ‘little girl.  You will root for her every step of the way, while devastation is just one puppy-dog-eyed look away.  Joey King’s performance is flawless on screen as well, as the little girl in the wheel chair at the beginning of this story.

Despite dastardly wizards and despicable witches, flying monkeys and little china girls, Mila Kunis steals the show.  Her emphatic portrayal of Theodora is a genuine and enchanting performance.  Kunis’ efforts and talents, transform this movie into an entertainment powerhouse. Again I confess, I didn’t think Kunis had it in her, but she tap-danced all over that theory early on.  Well done, Mila Kunis, I knew I liked you.

Overall this is a delightful movie.  It starts off strong, evoking a time long past and then quickly juts  us into a fantasyland that jumps off screen.  Bright colors, organic movement, a convivial tone and light-hearted nature converge to serve up one of the better movies you’ll see this year. Despite the sometimes strongly off-putting special effects make up, Oz the Great and Powerful, comes through delivering on a markedly grand title and legacy.

 

Oz the Great and PowerfulB

B = Watch it in a theater, stream it on T.V. or add it to your Netflix queue; chances are, you won’t curse me when the credits roll, for recommending.

 

All Written Material  © 2013 SocialCOmotion.com

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