Oz the Great and Powerful
dir Sam Raimi
prd Joe Roth
scr Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
with James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Abigail Spencer, Tony Cox, Bruce Campbell, Stephen R Hart, Tim Holmes
release US/UK 8.Mar.13
13/US Disney 2h10
Oz the Great and Powerful
Oscar in Wonderland: Franco and Williams

kunis weisz braff

How to act in 3D
Sam, Mila, Michelle, James, Rachel and Zach >>

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Oz the Great and Powerful This film demonstrates the combined might of Disney and producer Roth, able to convert top actors and filmmakers into an assembly line Family Movie. They did it with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, and now Raimi falls victim to the identical overpowering production style with this blandly underwritten but visually overwhelming adventure.

In black-and-white 1905 Kansas, Oscar (Franco) passes himself off as the great magician Oz, but is actually a womanising conman. Chased into a hot-air balloon by an angry husband, a tornado propels him into the colourful land of Oz, which has been waiting for an eponymous wizard to save them from a murderous witch. But which witch is wicked: too-good Glinda (Williams), the steely Evanora (Weisz) or her dithering sister Theodora (Kunis)? Of course, Oz isn't a real wizard, but he does have some tricks up his sleeve.

The screenwriters take ideas from L Frank Baum's stories and stir them into a formulaic plot peppered with action sequences and moments that require eye-popping digital trickery. Instead of endearing sidekicks, there's creepy-looking flying monkey Finley (Braff) and a sassy china doll (King), both rendered with special effects that never gel with the live actors. Sure, everything looks plush and florid, but visually it's less engaging than a two-dimensional cartoon. Cox's sardonic herald is a lot more fun.

Meanwhile the actors are directed to performances that eliminate subtext or real personality. Every line is delivered with earnestness or villainy, so we know exactly what's happening. Even children will find this annoying, but they won't be watching the actors, as the settings are so wildly psychedelic that we don't know where to look. Even so, the 1939 classic created more magic with painted cardboard because they were backdrops, not the main focal point.

That said, Raimi does wonders with the 3D, and there's terrific barbed dialog in more offhanded moments. Franco is charming when he's getting everything wrong, although his half-hearted romance with Williams is slightly pointless. Kunis and Weisz have more fun with their sassier scenes, even if the script can't think of something unpredictable for them to do. In other words, like Burton's Alice this will appeal to undemanding audiences who are wowed by pretty things coming at them. But thinking viewers should be warned.

cert pg themes, violence 27.Feb.13

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Oz the Great and Powerful Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall