There have been more than a dozen movie versions of the Wizard of Oz stories. Remember them? Probably not, because except for the 1939 classic, the general consensus is that there really haven't been any good versions of the Oz tales. Odd that. I mean you'd think that with such a well of creativity in the original material there could be all kinds of opportunity to present fresh versions. After all, someone is always coming up with new versions of Shakespeare or Jane Austen, and they're generally very good, aren't they? Perhaps Frank Baum is not quite in the same league as Shakespeare, but he did manage to create a story that has captured imaginations for more than a century now, and that's no small accomplishment.
I had great expectations for the newest foray into Oz, Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful. I like Sam Raimi ... usually. I think he has been very creative and has had his fingers in lots of just hugely entertaining stuff. But something went very seriously wrong with this project. Now to be fair, this is not the Dorothy-over-the-rainbow part of the Oz stories. This is a "prequel," the story of how the wizard came to be in the land of Oz. So, no Tin Man wanting a heart, nor Lion looking for courage et cetera, et cetera, this was the more appealing story of a no account, two bit, womanizing, lying, self-centered, shallow, sneering, puerile, greasy, greedy, pusillanimous county fair side show magician who gets blown into Oz, the land of diva witches, where he is mistaken for the prophesied Wizard who will deliver the people of Oz from the cruelty of the Wicked Witch, ushering in a time of happiness, low taxes, and sustainable economic growth with low inflation. Amidst the cleavage-laden witches and the slime trails of his own machinations to perpetuate the ruse of his wizardry, the shyster-cum-messiah must confront the question of his own identity. And if that was not enough, the story must be told to an audience of seven-year-olds.
The film is gaudy and inconsistent in its imagery. The story is shallow and boring. Of the actors, only Mila Kunis looked like she wanted to be there, and the rest were just picking up a paycheck. Even Rachel Weisz, who I normally really look forward to watching, seemed bored with her part.
And then there was Oz. James Franco absolutely destroyed any chance this film had of being successful. His acting (and maybe he wasn't acting) was distractingly bad -- soulless, uninspired, insipid. It really was excruciating to watch.
This film was indeed worse than Battleship, the leaden 2012 clunker that I found so forgettable. Was it a candidate for worst film ever? No, there could be worse. But, it could very well be the worst Oz-inspired movie ever, and that's a shame. Do not waste your money on this one. Wait until it premiers on the midnight to three a.m. slot on the Syfy Channel, and then don't watch it.
I'm really glad I didn't try to see this film in 3-D, because Peter Deming's cinematography and Sam Raimi's direction conspired to make me feel slightly queasy with motion-sickness after even a few minutes of the movie.
Or ... maybe it was the acting?
Or ... the hyper-saturated coloration of Oz?
Probably it was all three, and let's throw in an execrable script as well.
When Bernie said he wanted to see this movie, I said to him, "James Franco. No."
But I do love my husband more than life itself, so when he persisted in his desire to see Oz the Great and Powerful, I agreed to accompany him.
He owes me one.
James Franco utterly sucks in the title role. There is no other way to put it. He cannot deliver a convincing line to a CGI character (and in this film, that would be essential), and he was unable to bring to the screen any interest in his own role. Why he was cast is a complete mystery to me. HORRIBLE LEADING ACTOR.
The witches were a waste, one and all, even Rachel Weisz, who appeared to be having a flashback to her high school junior play. Just because the film would be appreciated most by 5- to 9- year olds does not mean that you hoke up your performance to the point that a 10-year-old would roll her eyes and feel embarrassed for the actress. INSIPID SUPPORTING ACTRESSES.
The CGI sidekicks, which could have enhanced the movie, were a flying monkey loaded with stomach-turning overblown pathos and a whiny voice, and a china doll with all the creepiness of a clown breathing on you in a stuck elevator. ICKY CGI.
This prequel to The Wizard of Oz could have been wonderful, but was quite awful, and I would not watch it in the future on cable if it was the last television show aired after the zombie apocalypse.
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