Friday, August 16, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) directed by Sam Raimi

MPAA rating

PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language

ZPAA rating

 This is a bit scarier than The Wizard of Oz, so 7 or 8 and up?

Gore level

1 out of 10--Some transformations from good to evil, like how the witch got her green on. The flying monkeys are a bit scarier, with fangs and growls but no actual gore.

Other offensive content

Two "damns" are spoken; Oz is a charlatan, which includes tricking women into having romantic feelings for him; some fight scenes including people and objects being thrown through the air; the balloon ride into Oz is pretty intense.

How much fun

Sam Raimi is a visual master and there is plenty of comedy in the story, so it is a lot of fun.

Synopsis & Review

It takes a lot of hubris to make a sequel to a beloved classic. It takes even more skill to craft something remotely worthy of such a classic. I think of the novels Scarlett, a sequel to Gone With the Wind, and Cosette, a sequel to Les Miserables, and shudder. The news of a film prequel to The Wizard of Oz struck me as a blow to fond memories of a childhood classic. I was completely uninterested and ready to write it off until I found out the director's name--Sam Raimi.

Raimi is famous for directing the Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies, though he has had a long history of horror, fantasy, drama, and comedy film making. Often, all in the same film. He has a distinctive and imaginative style. If anyone could pull off another Oz movie, it would be him….or Stephen Spielberg.

Oz the Great and Powerful tells how Oscar Diggs came from a traveling circus in Kansas to the land of Oz. He runs a magic show for the carnival and wants to be a great flimflam artist but he can't make it to the big time. He tells a girl in Kansas who wants to marry him that he doesn't want to be a good man, he wants to be a great man. She wants a good man but he's not interested in small town life. After his fateful balloon ride, Diggs is mistaken for the prophesied wizard who will defeat the wicked witch and become the just and benevolent ruler of the land of Oz. Diggs is, of course, no wizard, but he is a man of great ambition, and the fabulous wealth of Oz is a great temptation to him.

The story follows a rather predictable arc, especially for anyone who has seen the original film. Nevertheless, the movie is full of invention and visual splendor, perfectly suited to Raimi's cinematic style.The actors are fairly good, though James Franco as Oz gives only an adequate performance in what should be a star-making larger-than-life role. It is a devilish hard mark to hit and I don't know who would have done a better job blending the ambition and the heart that are required for the role.

Overall, the movie is a joy to watch and I am sad that I didn't see it in the theater in its full glory. I watched it on a plane and want to watch it again on a bigger screen with better sound. It's not a classic but it is fun and might grow more charming with repeat viewings.

Movie Trailer

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