This Ain’t Kansas Anymore…

Oz, the Great and Powerful

oz_the_great_and_powerful_ver9

Sam Raimi, the director of the original Spiderman trilogy, has reinvented the great tale of the 1939 Judy Garland classic The Wizard of OZ in his unique, but tepid version in Oz, the Great and Powerful starring James Franco (Milk, 127 Hours) as the self-infatuated and egotistical conman wizard Oz. The film’s opening sequence is truly hilarious, shot in black and white and set in a mid-Western state fair in Kansas in 1905, where Oz, also known as Oscar Diggs poses as a Wizard and puts on a less than illustrious show to try and dazzle the conservative rural community of this Mid-Western American state. Assisted with a comic glee by Frank played by the underutilized Zach Braff, Oz is soon wooing audiences into all sorts of illusions and magic tricks, some of which fall short of magnificence.

However in an attempt to escape the county fair strongman, Oz gets caught up on a balloon in a tornado as one does in Kansas and soon finds himself transported to the radiant and colourful land of Oz where he meets the bewitching Theodora, underplayed by the smouldering Mila Kunis (Black Swan) who soon takes Oz on the yellow brick road to meet her supposedly evil sister Evanora, played with malicious panache by Oscar Winner Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardiner).

Theodora

Theodora

Evanora upon showing Oz the mountains of gold stored in the Emerald city soon cons him into tracking down the Wicked Witch in a bid to steal her magic wand. Oz journeys to the dark forest along with a china girl and a pet flying monkey and tracks down the supposed evil witch who turns out to be Glinda the Good, beautifully played by Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine), who obviously took the role so that her daughter Mathilda could see one of her movies. The rest of Oz, the Great and Powerful is light, candied entertainment with the occasional witty line, but really lacking in the true imaginative retelling found in Tim Burton’s brilliant Alice in Wonderland or in the dark magic realism of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Glinda complete with shiny heels and a wand!

Even the flying baboons are not that scary. Raimi who is renowned for making brilliant horror films (Drag Me to Hell and The Evil Dead), find himself caught up in the world of Oz without the necessary desire to make the fantasy vaguely fascinatingly edgy, but rather predictable and very tame. The best lines in the film are taken by Williams and Weisz who know how to play sassy witches, trying to compete for the attentions of the goofy Wizard, slightly overplayed by Franco.

Oz the Great and Powerful will definitely appeal to younger viewers and lacks some of the edginess seen in some of the more recent revisionist fairytale cinematic offerings. My only thought throughout this version was where the heck was Dorothy? She was stuck in celluloid legacy as Judy Garland in the MGM original.

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

Dorothy had a new meaning after this film!

The only one with sparkling shoes was Glinda the Good, which audiences briefly caught a glimpse in the last few scenes of the film. Fascinating and fabulous as it is, like the Oz’s final projected appearance in the Emerald City, much of the film is filled with hot air, but is nevertheless entertaining in parts.

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