Pretty much everyone loves the classic Wizard of Oz, well I guess for a very long time Walt Disney had wanted to create a prequel to that film that explained how the Wizard got to Oz. It took a long time but it finally got made, director Sam Raimi who is one of my favorites was a perfect choice to bring this story to screen, problem is some choices come off as dull especially one man in the film: James Franco. His what I call, stoned approach to Oz did not work for me. He did not deliver a lot of lines right, sure he had the look down, and let me say he’s not terrible but he is the biggest flaw of the film.
The first thing you’ll notice is that a good ten minutes of the start of the film is in black and white, and this works, man the first ten minutes is really strong. The look is gorgeous, then once Oz reaches well… Oz everything gains color and over the top amounts of CGI. Sam Raimi does give us a lot of great visuals but the CGI at many times is over whelming, some pieces come off as so fake it looks like a video game and it’s distracting. Also Franco does not do a fantastic job of making us feel like we’re there, when he speaks to CGI characters he stares at them just a little off center. Franco really just doesn’t pull off the sleazy magician who grows a heart, he comes off like a stoner trying to be a magician.
The female leads pretty much keep the movie afloat acting wise. It was nice seeing Mila Kunis doing something else besides the “hot girl friend” type role. She brings a lot of pain and depth to the wicked witch. Rachel Weisz is the stand out here, mind you she gets the best lines but she is just such an amazing actress that she dominates the screen. The woman should be the next James Bond villain, first off would love to see her face off with her real life husband(Daniel Craig) on screen. Michelle Williams plays Glinda the Good, and she simply radiates goodness, you believe she’s the good witch the second you hear her speak.
This movie is really for kids, it’s not a dumb kids movie though, the jokes work and at moments there are some really great visuals. It’s just the tame rating leaves one wanting a little more. The action set pieces are so tame that it doesn’t really leave you astonished. Still once you realize your watching a kids movie, you understand you’re watching a really good kids movie. I just wish Raimi could have tried to make us care about Oz a little more, they focus so hard on CGI plants and creatures that when it comes to the people of Oz, I could care less about them.
The leading ladies are worth the price of admission alone, the visual make the film a fun ride and very worth seeing it on the big screen. Sadly though Franco and the lack of focus on the actual world of Oz leads the movie feeling a little off balance and not as epic as you’d hope. Still it’s not a failure at all and the movie never hits you over the head with references to the old film. If you have kids I’d say this is a must see otherwise understand that you should go in with low expectations.
Review: 7 out of 10