We’ve Gone to See the Wizard and Tra La Tra La Tra La: A review of Oz The Great and Powerful

ozAbout five minutes after leaving the theater I ended the title take of the Wizard of Oz’s signature song with “…and we’re not happy at all.”  (‘We’ve gone to see the Wizard and we’re not happy at all’ to the tune of We’re Off to See the Wizard.)

Now the truth be told, I’ve not been happy with anything I’ve seen in the theater for at least the past two years.  Nothing I’ve seen has left me sitting in my seat after the theater empties, mouth-breathing an awestruck Gosh Wow! and nothing has come close to making me want to stay right in that seat for the next showing.

I’d be strongly suspicious that my lack of wonder at film these days is more my fault than Hollywood’s, but here sits my wife and she’s not been too happy with film lately either.  She did pull a fast one on me after Oz The Great and Powerful though:  heretofore films that I chastised for lack of story (or poorly realized story) she redeemed with shout-outs for visual effects and spectacle (ignoring my retort that you can’t carry a film on visuals alone).  This time she said “the story didn’t really move; it didn’t really go anywhere the original didn’t go”

I have also, for the fourth or fifth time, forsworn all 3D films.  Two scenes from Oz might have justified its use, two scenes out of a two hour and ten minute film.  It’s just not worth the fuzziness that accompanies the effects.

There was plenty to enjoy: it was nice to return to Oz.  Director Sam Raimi stayed pretty faithful to the original film (though not to the books – how could he when a prequel to The Wizard doesn’t exist?) and managed to work in a lot of nice little touches to evoke the original (horses of a different color grazing in the background for example).  Though on one occasion I questioned the whole ‘homage to other films’ thing when dialogue during a battle scene evoked Brave Heart.  James Franco did a pretty fair job as the titular Oz (I didn’t think he was quite ‘bad’ enough though to make his transformation into a good guy as powerful as it might otherwise have been).  I’m sure that there were many younger children who were enthralled, and, for the adults, as I said, it was nice to go back to Oz for a while.

For all of that though, there’s just not a lot of juice in the film.  It plays, we sit and after a bit we get up and leave.

What is intriguing are the many things I consider to be obvious set-ups for a sequel:  Oz’s paramour is getting married to someone with the last name of Gale.  Dorothy’s last name was Gale.  Perhaps she’s already pregnant….

Disappointingly, there was no appearance of the Red Shoes – which may be another setup.  (Spoiler Alert)  Now that the witches have been vanquished, they’ll need new powers to return and contest with Oz.  Ruby Slippers anyone?

It’s also kind of fun to “match” the original with this take and try to figure out which character represents whom:  my wife and I are still arguing over whether the China Girl is the Scarecrow’s analog or Toto’s analog.  I’m holding out for Toto.

And speaking of the China Girl – Disney has a hit with her.  More adorable that any dozen Ewoks and far cuter to boot!

If I gave stars for films, I’d stick Oz the Great and Powerful right in the middle – 2.5 – which is two thumbs sideways.  If you’ve nothing better to do, give it a watch.  If you are an Oz book fanatic – skip it.


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  1. Hollywood studios have become franchise factories trying to create thrill rides. The really creative work is being done by independent studios with tiny budgets, like The Call of Cthulhu, The Whisperer in the Darkness, District 9, and Let The Right One In.

    Television is also cutting new ground. What could be less of a "thrill ride" than The Walking Dead? Gee, it's about 3'/4 character development with the occasional zombie thrown in. Outside of genre, the best visual depictions I've seen lately are The Wire, House of Cards and Sherlock.

  2. I was originally going to see this, until I realized it was 3D. Like a lot of people I get headaches from watching these sorts of movies, so I generally won't watch anything in that format.

    I have the same feeling about movies. Lately there just doesn't seem to be much interesting in the movies, and the few movies I have looked forward to have been somewhat disappointing. Hopefully the trend will change soon.

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