Oz: The Great And Powerful
Direction: Sam Raimi
Actors: James Franco, Michelle Williams
The illustrated children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its spin-off stories written by L Frank Baum have not been well-served by the movies since The Wizard of Oz back in 1939.
As with that much-loved musical fantasy which made Judy Garland a legend at the age of 17, the opening segment of Oz, The Great And Powerful is filmed in sepia-tinted black and white. But this is not just another retelling of the oft-adapted tale.
Rather, it’s an origin story of how the wizard actually arrived in the fabled Land of Oz. A conniving magician (Franco) is forced to flee from his circus troupe in a hot-air balloon.
Blown way off course by a tornado, he touches down in an enchanted kingdom replete with fantastical creatures.
It’s the cue for the transition to widescreen and colour. In quick succession, our huckster hero encounters a wisecracking winged-monkey (voiced by Zach Braff who also briefly appears in the prologue as a circus assistant), an orphaned porcelain doll (dubbed in heart-rending tones by Joey King), not to forget the witches good and bad.
Next: the charlatan wizard is plagued by the nagging doubt that he may not be able to solve the problems facing the inhabitants of Oz. His last act change of heart is unconvincing. The overcrowded narrative lurches from one action set piece to another but unfortunately, whiz-bang spectacle becomes the be-all of this wannabe blockbuster.
Obvious care has been expended on the costumes, sets and production design. On the other hand, the proceedings rarely evoke any sense of wonder or excitement. The acting doesn’t help at all either.
The biggest offender is James Franco who’s neither charismatic nor forceful. In the thankless roles of the three witches, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams are alternately drab and dull.
Utilizing the 3D format for the first time in his career, director Sam Raimi (the Spider-Man trilogy) strains to give the all-ages fantasy addicts more of everything. As it turns out, only the magic is missing.