"Oz the Great and Powerful" is merely okay, and that sucks


I think I would be less annoyed with "Oz the Great and Powerful" if it just plain sucked.  Granted, it wasn't an awful movie, but it certainly wasn't good.  How, in the name of all things nerdy, do you throw that much expensive crap onto the big screen, support it with a stellar cast and still come up with something this mediocre?

The prequel to the 1939 classic "Wizard of Oz"  tells the story of Oscar Diggs (underwhelmingly played by James Franco), a shady sideshow magician who gets magically transported,via hellish tornado abduction, to a magical land called Oz. Upon landing, he meets Theodora (played by Mila Kunis) who  tells him that his coming fulfills an ancient prophecy that calls for him to destroy a wicked witch. Evanora (played by Rachel Weisz) and Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) round out the cast of witches who will ultimately shape the fate of the wonderful land of Oz.

This is Disney, people. The movie was never going to be encumbered by complex plots or  robust acting. I was genuinely surprised that there wasn't much bursting into song. Disney just ain't Disney without a cuddly talking animal companion and the flying monkey Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) fills the bill.I sometimes felt like I was watching a horribly expensive animatic for a proposed theme park ride.  Having said that, would it have killed them to shorten the film in spots?

Before I fire up the waaah-mbulance and complain in earnest, I don't want to minimize the visual experience. The CGI in this film is nothing short of arresting. Oscar-worthy even. The landscape of Oz is lush and totally immersive. I will also cop to how much I like the Wicked Witch.  I won't spoil it for those who plan to see it, but just know the Wicked Witch kind of rocks.

My biggest frustration was the plodding pace. My friends don't ever get to talk smack about the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy's tendency to be "walky" after this movie. the walking and talking scenes, and the way they dragged down the plot,  bummed me out a little. Another peeve was the ham-handed 3D. I didn't even go to the 3D version and stuff was madly lunging off the screen at the oddest times.  The flying baboons are going to scare the almighty dog crap out of viewers.  They are the more guilty culprits of the lunging off the screen thing.

Overall, while I didn't loathe the movie, It could have been so much more. Sam Raimi delivered visually, but the acting and the pace of the movie made it feel long. Every stinkin' one of these actors has done amazing and career-defining work. Unfortunately they didn't bring it to  "Oz." Maybe the movie got hamstrung by fitting into the Disney mold. Maybe they devoted so much time to CGI that the script suffered. In any event this is a hard "Matinee it" if you're burning to see the CGI or the costumes. Otherwise, DVD or stream it.

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    “Oz the Great and Powerful” is all smoke and no mirrors, no fantasy, just effects without affect. To be honest, more like Oz the Amiable and Un-threatening. The best, funniest Oz thing I've read lately is DA YELLER BRICK ROAD, a revisionist telling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Uncle Remus. The conceit is it was originally by Remus (who didn't exist) and then "borrowed and cleaned-up" by Baum. Hilarious and charming. All that "Oz the Great and Powerful" is not.

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