I’ll start this review by mentioning that the “Wizard of Oz” is my favorite movie of all time. I first watched it as a child on an old black and white TV set, so I didn’t even know it contained a Technicolor part. When I first saw it on a color TV set, I assumed someone had colorized it. Further research revealed the truth and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen several times.
Naturally, my love of the original film prompted my curiosity towards “Oz the Great and Powerful,” a 2013 film now playing at the local 3D cinema. The film stars James Franco as an early version of the Wizard character played by Frank Morgan in the 1939 film. The story shows how the Wizard came to Oz in the first place. In an extended black and white sequence, Oz runs from a circus strong man and boards a hot air balloon that gets swept up in a tornado. The swirling winds tear apart his balloon and he swears out loud to reform his conning and womanizing ways if he can stay alive. He lands in the colorful kingdom of Oz where he meets a charming witch named Theodora, played by Mila Kunis.
A prophesy predicts that a powerful wizard would arrive in Oz, and so Theodora, after a bit of romancing with our hero, brings him to the witch’s palace. Theodora’s sister, Evanora, played by Rachel Weisz, also lives there, but the Wizard fails to realize the dangerous power struggle that’s developing in the kingdom of Oz.
A third sister, Glinda, played by Michelle Williams, believes that only the Wizard can save the hapless citizens of Oz. They meet and form an alliance with an animated monkey named Finley and China Doll. The plucky China Doll, in exquisitely produced animation, possesses some of Dorothy’s traits from the 1939, including uncommon bravery despite her fragility. Finley, dressed in a cute bellhop getup, seems to have a little bit of the brains of The Scarecrow, the heart of the Tin Man, and the Courage of the cowardly Lion.
Of course, the lovely Glinda, dressed in white, can conjure up a lot of violence herself. However, this film stars Franco as the con man. Defeating Evanora and Theodora requires extreme cunning and the Wizard of Oz is so good at smoke and mirrors. I found this movie very entertaining and a visual pleasure, and I’d recommend seeing the 3D version.