I dislike James Franco so much that I actually had no intention of going to see Oz the Great & Powerful. But my parents offered to take me, and I do love going to movies, so away I went, half my weight in popcorn in hand, and settled in for a movie that I hoped, oh, I hoped, would be enjoyable.
Why is it my lot in life that I must always be disappointed? I should let you all know that I was an Oz FIEND as a kid. And I don’t mean the film The Wizard of Oz. I mean every single book that L. Frank Baum wrote about Oz. (Spoiler alert: There are a LOT. Including but not limited to, Queen Zixi of Ix, The Magical Monarch of Mo, Ozma of Oz and Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse of Oz.) I read ALL of them. So what I’m saying is that I probably know more about the Oz universe than, say … any living human being ever, so I’d like to think I have a unique take on the fictional land.
Anyway, back to the movie. As the opening music swells, so unquestionably from the hands of Danny Elfman, it becomes evident what I was in for. A spectacular. (Note: I did not say something spectacular.) The film, obviously, starts sepia-toned and our squinty, grinning hero Oz (Oscar, actually. Not Bluth, unfortunately) being a magical con man with (yes, yes, yes, yes) Zach Braff as his assistant. The rest is easy to imagine–He gets caught in a balloon, lands in Oz and HOLY SHIT SO MANY COLORS. Wait, hold the phone, my eyes have to adjust. Okay, we’re good. So that’s about all the plot you need as most of it follows a pretty solid “becoming a hero” archetype. Let’s move on to my brutal criticisms and spare compliments.
Sam Raimi took this imaginary world and created a new Instagram filter for it. I think he calls it “ALL OF THE COLORS!!!111!1!1!” I admit, he did a great job with special effects, they were incredibly well done. But to a fault. There was nothing genuine about the Land of Oz, nothing warm or welcoming. There was nothing that was not hued rainbow and “subtle” must have been banned from the writer’s room. Liberace’s closet is blushing in shame that it never had this much color. Honestly? It’s distracting. I will begrudgingly admit that the use of color in costumes was brilliant so, there’s that. Way to go, costume designer!
I will keep my criticism of James Franco brief, but let me tell you, it will be hard. Franco, like nearly every character he’s ever played since the teen movies of the early aughts, grins, winks, and mumbles his way throughout the film. Though he may not have won himself an Oscar, he definitely earned that degree from Yale in what I assume was Acting Through Gesticulating Wildly. It always astonishes me that whenever he speaks there isn’t spit flying in every direction. Although, now that I think about it, the special effects artists were on point, so maybe there originally was. Boom. Vindicated. James Franco does not hold the film. When he was on the screen I just wished that he’d hurry up with the scene and leave. And maybe retire.
Thank L. Frank Baum’s ghost that Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz were there to lock that shit down. The trio of witches is, truly, magical. (I’ll give you all a minute to groan at that sentence. We good? Alright.) Each woman is fantastic in her own right (and so hot, amirite?). Good, evil, super evil, green … everything is covered. (Seriously, the most gorgeous women, ever. My self esteem is still being mopped up off the floor of the theater.) Though their dialogue was stiff, they did the best they could with it. (And lacquer fans, check out their manicures.) Each woman gave a new life and personality to her particular character that makes the viewer further vested in them. (FREAKING SPOILER ALERT: Even the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, the green one.)
Costuming is marvelous. If the costume designer is not nominated for an Oscar, I will be surprised. Though the hair and makeup of the people of Oz occasionally veered into Seussian territory, it was never so much so as to be distracting. The hues of Oz were miraculously not puked onto the fabrics of the costumes, and hallelujah for that.
The best part? Glinda is a goddamn badass. The worst part? A stagnant, poorly told story, riddled with too many cliches and too little heart. And Sam Raimi fans searching for Bruce Campbell? He’s the Winky Guard trying to prevent Nook from getting into the Emerald City. Look past the ‘stache and the chin.
Go see it if you’re under the age of ten or if you are one of James Franco’s acid-dropping kindred spirits.
What did you think of Oz The Great and Powerful? Let us know in the comments!
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