Viewed – 27 July 2013 Online rental
I haven’t seen the much admired and cherished classic The Wizard Of Oz for many years. Why? It freaks me out. Something about it just gets under my skin, and that wicked witch … shudder. However on hearing this was coming out I at first really wanted to see it, but several very mixed reviews from friends later, let’s just say I hesitated … until now.
James Franco is Oz, a carnival magician and conman who after one too many deceits finds himself running away from his troubles in a hot air balloon, only to get caught in a tornado, which subsequently whisks him away to the land of Oz. This little prologue like the 1939 original is shown in black and white (and even in classic 4:3 ratio) until Oz arrives in the magical world and then its all bold colors and CGI. Now in this modern age, we should have one wish when being presented with a new vision for the land of Oz, and that is ‘wonder’ … we want this enchanted world to be realized like never before, and rest assured folks we get what we wished for, with some gorgeous, eye-popping visuals, grand set design, very impressive CGI and color – oh the color!
Joining Oz on this trip down cinematic memory lane is current hot property Mila Kunis (looking great in leather pants) as good witch Theodora, along with her sisters Evanora (Rachel Weiss) and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Performances are good, especially from Weiss in possibly her first villainous role, and with a story that offers enough nods to the original whilst throwing in some great ideas of its own (good flying monkey ‘Finley’ and an impressively done china doll) this proved very entertaining. For an Oz movie however this lives or (slightly) dies on just how wicked the Wicked Witch is, and sadly here she may look the part (she’s green, has a pointy hat and rides a broom stick) but performance-wise, she comes off as a spoiled brat having a tantrum. And yes it may be aimed at a family crowd, but the Wicked Witch is meant to be scary! Add to this the absence of songs (surely another lasting memory of the original) and a hero who is basically a bit of a git, and yes, it does have a few problems.
Yet Franco and the rest of the cast give it their all and under the watchful eye of director Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead) the sheer infectious energy and visual explosion on display makes such short comings mostly forgivable. Whilst not quite Judy Garland’s Oz, its still the same, magical experience.
Verdict: 3.5 /5