Reviewed by Movie Moxie’s Alicia Glass

Studio: Walt Disney Films

MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Sam Raimi

Review Rating: 7.5

Faire con-man Oscar finds himself using his best illusions to save the land of Oz from the ambitions of sister witches!

The movie itself is set up in a very Oz fashion, that is to say, the beginning is in black and white (instead of sepia) and involves a hapless protagonist being transported to an eye-popping Technicolor land of Oz via a tornado. Oz the land itself is more or less the same as the original film, where the colors mug the eyeballs of the viewers, and the land is full of mystical creatures and magical folk of all ilk. Unfortunately for the updated viewer who happens to be a fan of the original film, this new movie is done quite a bit in CGI, with little thought to things like makeup, costumes, and sets. Only once is there an actual attempt at singing, of course from the Munchkins, which can make fans of the classic first film a tad sad. Many large parts of the storyline, regardless of whether they happen to be true to Frank L. Baums original book series, happen to be far to reminiscent of other fairy tales. Like the China village and the flower garden, all I could see was an Alice In Wonderland wanna-be. Or the bit with the apple and the witch, yes it was a green apple, still, Snow White anyone? Even the would-be Wizard himself, Oscar now known as Oz – he’s a Con man through and through, he even takes pride in it when it seems that’s the last and only thing that will save Oz and the Emerald City from the witch sisters. To take pride in pulling off a brilliant con can be a good thing, yes, but that is not the kind of magical wonder we expect from Oz, either the land or the man.

So Oz is a magician in a traveling faire, and readily proves himself to be a lecher of women and the all-around con-man who needs help from no one, not even his long-suffering assistant. Then a tornado whisks him away to the land of Oz, where he’s believed to be the one spoken of in prophecy, the wizard who fell from the sky who will save the land of Oz from the machinations of the wicked witch. James Franco is Oz, and while he gamely attempts the bumbling if loveable character they gave him to play, the role is lacking is some indefinable thing that would really tie the movie together more. Theodora, the witch who finds Oz first and falls badly in love with him, is played by Mila Kunis, and yes, feel free to mutter to yourself, “Shut up, Meg”. Rachel Weisz is Evanora, she of the truly evil witchery and the awesome dress, and while her character is one of the few likeable ones (for being so bad and awful even), her story is only a supporting one for the larger plot and that is a shame. Michelle Williams is Glinda the eternal Good Witch, sadly she reminds me far too much of Anne Hathaway’s White Queen in Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. Joey King is the voice of China Girl, and another character from the sepia period, see if you can guess which one. There is even a cameo from Bruce Campbell, which is awesomely bad and therefore extra awesome.

But all these fine actors cobbled together with up-to-the-minute CGI effects (don’t forget the 3D sigh), chained to a wobbly storyline, do not for a grand prequel make. The film has far too many references to the original Oz – the yellow brick road, the singing Munchkins, the Emerald City, etc. etc. – for it to be considered a stand-alone film. There are some very fine moments in the film, the ending the ultimate Con-Wizard pulls off is pretty spectacular (if not entirely heroic and honest, it does at least save the city), and the colors are indeed eyeball-melting. So, it is worth a watch at least once, but I would skip the 3D glasses and beware if bright colors bother you.

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