Oz: The Not So Great but Mostly Enjoyable
And darn pretty to look at! The land, I mean. Not the man. Though there is some kind of an appealing rascal look to James Franco. Hmm…
Let me start this off with a few things. First of all, I love, love, love The Wizard of Oz. I know all the songs, and I have a small collection of Christmas ornaments. For Christmas a couple of years ago, I was given the anniversary DVD box set that came with all the promotional material, a watch, and even a copy of the film’s budget. I freaked out.
I think, that even though I know the MGM film with Judy Garland takes liberties with the L. Frank Baum books, there is still something pure about it. It’s as if the film is protected in one of Glinda’s magic bubbles, and all other adaptations can’t seem to connect to it. There have been many attempts, and none have made it. I kind of hoped Oz the Great and Powerful would come the closest or at least be enough of its own movie that we wouldn’t need the connection. In some says, the movie latched on to its predecessor. But in many, many ways, it missed the target.
I didn’t go into Oz with the highest of expectations, but I had hopes. After all, Sam Raimi was at the helm. He’s a crazy cool director, and I’m a huge fan. While I hoped Raimi’s film would have a little more edge, instead it came across as more of a fairy tale. In my opinion, the movie is more aimed at the kiddies than adults. I felt that everyone in the cast was given direction to overact a bit. If someone was happy, they weren’t happy. They were happy! Characters weren’t sad or angry. They were devastated or wrathful. I felt that the overacting distracted me from the overall experience.
The story was pretty good, but it took a long time for the film to click into place. That could have been me though. I had been promised a Bruce Campbell cameo (as per tradition in Raimi films) and spent most scenes looking for him to pop up. Also, the motivations of some of the characters seemed odd. Franco’s Oscar Diggs just seemed disconnected from a lot going on around him. I don’t get it. Franco seemed more intense and connected when he spent an entire movie pinned by a rock in a canyon. In Oz, I felt like he was distracted for most of the time as if he wasn’t sure what his lines were or if there was something better going on off set. This wasn’t the case for the whole movie, mind you. Franco had some pretty cool scenes, and I enjoyed those scenes. However, he was really difficult to read for most of the movie.
There were also writing issues. I have a brother, but I rarely, if ever, call him “Brother” when addressing him. Two characters must call each other “sister” more times that not. It got kind of annoying. It’s a nit-picky thing, but it bothered me.
All these grievances aside, there were things I did enjoy. First of all, the movie was gorgeous to look at. A friend of mine saw it in 3D, and said the effects were pretty groovy. Also, Danny Elfman did the music. He’s the best film composer in my book. There were some pretty cool lines in the movie, but I can’t repeat my favorite ones because they contain spoilers. Just take my word for it. Characters such as Knuck the fanfare player and the China Girl made the movie enjoyable.
Also, I want Finley the monkey. Every close up on this adorable computer animated primate caused me to coo and awww over him. This film was my Oscar prize, so I saw it with Crint. He kept laughing at me whenever I’d melt over the adorable monkey. Seriously folks. He’s soooooo cute.
So yeah. I had fun watching Oz the Great and Powerful, but I don’t think it lived up to what I hoped for it. If I graded movies, I’d give it a B-. It gets points for good casting (Rachel Weisz’s tricky Evanora and Michelle Williams’ kindly Glinda), visuals (Oz the land was absolutely gorgeous), and music. It gets bonus points for an adorable monkey and Bruce Campbell. However, it loses points to questionable casting (Franco and maybe Mila Kunis), overacting, and unpolished writing.
There were many kids in the movie theater when I went. Most were okay, but I overheard two boys on my row ask their adult supervisor if they could go play in the lobby. That’s never a good thing. The little girl who sat a few seats away from me, however, was a like a little version of me. When the lights dimmed and the movie started, she gave a happy little squeal and did a sort of anticipatory dance in her seat. From what I can tell, she was happy when the end credits started rolling. I can only hope that she maintains her excitement for movies and good stories. I’m sure children like her were in Raimi’s mind when he made this movie. If that’s the case, then he definitely succeeded. But for this slightly disappointed adult…I’ll take what I enjoyed from Oz and be happy with that.