March 19, 2013

Three Steps to Enjoying Oz The Great and Powerful

James Franco is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. That is, the Wizard of Oz.

Trippy as it would be for Dorothy to turn up, her house having landed on a lady with real nice heals, and be asked, "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" I think Oscar Diggs gets it even worse. Imagine waking up in a land that's named after you; yeah, this place is called Oz. I don't know what can be worse for your ego than having the world be named after you.

There's also the fact that Oscar Diggs, the tricksy magician, is expected to be able to kill the Wicked Witch who's been tormenting his land, because there's one of those nifty prophecies. Queue James Franco's face, looking like it always does: that of a smug, stoned sonofabitch. Goofy, incapable, thinks he's charming enough to blow off the Oscars like it's no big deal. The freaking Oscars. That's about all you'll get from his character, and probably from Franco's acting for the rest of his career unless someone gives him a sock in the head hard enough to get through his thick skull.

Luckily we have three beautiful witches to feast our eyes on through the entire production.

Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz play the witches of Oz, and play with Oz's heart, and are probably the biggest reason Oz the Great and Powerful has grossed $283 million worldwide, other than Happy Meal toy promotion.

Of course, you've already decided to go see the movie for Mila, so now the question becomes, will you like it?

Or better yet: How will you make sure you will like it?

Step 1: Remember Magic

Repeat the following mantra to yourself. It's Disney. It's Disney. It's Disney. Remember this is a kids flick, and therefore, Franco's sidekicks are going to be annoying, there will be inappropriately light-hearted one-liners to keep the kindergarteners from tearing up (too much), and there will be a storybook ending. The best way to remember what you're getting into would be to watch not only (Warner Brothers') The Wizard of Oz, but also a couple of Disney films. Maybe some of the less good ones, like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, cuz let's be honest, this is no Aladdin. Just remember how to laugh when you're supposed to and try to have a good time.

Step 2: Think about Oz

I wouldn't recommend marathoning The Wizard of Oz, then Oz the Great and Powerful, because this contemporary prequel just has none of that level of mastery. But of course, you need to be ready to catch those magical references. There won't be any ruby slippers, but there will be the odd reverberating line that will make you think of the classic, which is basically all Oz the Great and Powerful is good for. Okay, the story isn't terrible. But everyone going to see it is clearly just trying to recapture some of what you're supposed to get over the rainbow.

Step 3: Go to the matinée

The goofy jokes really need a laugh-track to be any fun for adults, or what I will call The Finding Neverland effect.

25 Seats for Orphans:

I couldn't get a clip of how infectious the children laughing was but I'm sure you will remember, and you will remember to go see Oz The Great and Powerful with as many rugrats in the audience as you can manage.

Alternatively, you can go to a late show and brown bag it.

BONUS: Try to forget how much you don't like James Franco's face.

The longer it's been since you've watched Freaks and Geeks or Pineapple Express, the better. Don't watch the interview of him on Colbert slouching disrespectfully in his seat because movie stars don't have to sit up straight; don't check out Rise of the Planet of the Apes (for various reasons); and whatever you do, don't watch him slowly and torturously strangle the 2011 Academy Awards, leaving Anne Hathaway dancing and giving mouth-to-mouth at the same time. Just try to forget.

Not that reading this post just helped you with that.
Okay, here's a distraction!

If you remember the 1939 classic, you can't possibly forget all of those heavy handed insinuations that the whole thing is a dream. I mean, come on, she even wakes up in her bed at the end. But the cowardly lion, the scarecrow and the tin man are all farmhands in the employ of Aunty Em, and the Wicked Witch of the West looks a lot like mean old Miss Gulch, the psycho who wants to kill her dog.

Oz The Great and Powerful has a few hints as well, but I don't think Disney managed as seamless a dream quest as Warner Bros. did. Sure, it was a different story and timeline to work with, so of course Oscar can't wake up just yet, but I only uncovered a few hints that the writers were still playing with dreams at all.

The first and most obvious is named Annie. Look familiar?

If not, good. I didn't spoil anything for you. Carry on with your movie watching.

The next has to do with Oscar Digg's failure as a magician; the fact that he's a con man who can't actually do magic. Now, normally you wouldn't hold that against a guy, but when he's on stage pretending he can levitate lady volunteers and making fireworks and explosions, he tells his audience to believe, and that's just what they do. To the point where a little girl in a wheelchair believes that he can fix her legs, and she's crying, and he's completely failing to do the adult thing in the situation, which is to either tell her the truth or come up with a really, really good lie. Yup, that's the adult thing to do. But watch closely, and you will see in true Freudian style that his subconscious will deal with the disappointment of not being able to help the little girl to walk.

And that's pretty much all I got. So please flood my comment board with your genius observations; I have need of you.

I haven't given Oz The Great and Powerful a stellar review, and that's because it's not exactly a stellar film. It could be the fault of L. Frank Baum's original story, but I felt that Oscar's great accomplishments were taken away from by the final conflict and how ridiculously that was resolved. Yay Glinda! Now why didn't you just do that in the first place? Oh wait, that's just how Glinda rolls, if you remember in The Wizard of Oz her whole "You've always had the power to go back to Kansas" thing.

But what I did find to be stellar was the entire intro. I might be alone, and Dorothy wouldn't agree with me until the end of her little dream quest, but I didn't want to leave Kansas at all. The Professor's circus had more magic for me than a digitally remastered fantasy land. I hope you'll find the same. Or maybe you will enjoy contemporary Emerald City and the yellow brick road more than I did.


  1. Bring me back in childhood days. Simple Fairy Tell Black and white in 10 min begining then suddenly bring color in 3D give awesome effects. Good movie specially when watched with kids.

  2. I loved the black and white part the most, and I'm glad you did manage to recapture that childhood magic. I didn't see it in 3D but I can only imagine it was spectacular. Still very pretty in 2D.