Today brings us the release of Oz the Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Rami of Evil Dead fame, from Disney. It is a prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, a film I and many others grew up watching year after year. The original film told a timeless tale of self-discover that delivered a strong message of looking inside ourselves for the strengths we feel we lack, be they brains, a heart, or courage. So it was with quite a few expectations that I sat down to watch this film with the kids and decide if it would be a buy, rent, or skip movie.

Much like the original film, this one start out in black and white with James Franco assuming the role of Oscar “Oz” Diggs – a carnival magician with a love for the ladies. When the strongman of Baum’s Traveling Circus comes looking for Oz, angered that the magician has been wooing his lady, Oz hops aboard a hot air balloon to escape. When the balloon runs into a tornado… well you can pretty much guess what happens. The rest of the film is the story of how a carney magician became the most powerful and legendary man in the land of Oz. Using a bag full of tricks and stage magic, Oz leads the good people of Oz against the wicked witches in order to free them from their unwitting enslavement to them. Chasing them from the city, he remains as the ruler.

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This film is very far removed from the original which might not have been a bad thing, only this is not the only downside to this film. The concept of showing how the wizard got to Oz was a great idea and making him a carnival magician was brilliant. I enjoyed that they showed the beginning of the film in black and white just like the original as well and that the name of the traveling carnival bore the name of Baum (tribute to Wizard of Oz writer Frank M. Baum). However, James Franco failed to deliver on this film. He was in no way convincing as someone that could become the great man behind the curtain that Dorothy would come to know. And once Mila Kunis emerges as the Wicked Witch of the West, she looks like she found the Loki mask from The Mask and slapped it on. Then there are the moral elements of the film. In the original, the main protagonists are all seeking something and the message delivered at the end is that the things they were seeking were inside them all the time. In this film, Oz is a greedy, self-centered con-man and that is what saves the day in the end. That’s right children, you can lie, cheat, and con your way to the top and still be a hero. So, on to the scoring.

Originality: 5/5 – The film is an original take on the Oz story and this is largely do to Rami who brings a spark of originality to nearly everything he does.
Story: 3/5 – A good tale, but it lacks the strong moral and social commentary that made the first one such an inspirational film that can be watched often for a pick-me-up.
Performances: 3/5 – I’ve seen movies where the star carries all the other performances but this has to be the first time I’ve seen supporters carry the star’s performance. Franco was just a poor choice for this role.
Special Effects: 2/5 – Wicked Witch looks like The Mask, several moments in which unpolished special effects remind us that we are watching a film.
Repeat Viewing: 2/5 – I would put this on to keep the kids busy for a couple hours, but find myself undistracted by it.

Score: 

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