Movie Review : Oz The Great and Powerful

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In a world gone mad with lust and greed and violence, there’s often nothing quite like a children’s fantasy to restore some sanity in you. And that is probably why movie adaptations of Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver’s Travels, despite being done and redone time and again, never really go out of fashion.

Now, before we start talking about the latest entrant in that category, “Oz The Great and Powerful“, I must admit that I had neither read L. Frank Baum‘s classic novel : The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; nor had I seen Victor Fleming‘s 1939 classic : The Wizard of Oz. And you know, I think it was good that I hadn’t. I had no parallels to draw, no comparisons to make, to expectations to fulfill. I was simply watching a new movie, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, not to a great extent anyway.

urlFor those of you who are unfamiliar with the Land of Oz saga, I’m not dropping any spoilers. I’ll assure you that it is a beautiful, simple and endearing story. If you want to find out more, read the book.

The movie we’re talking about here is directed by Sam Raimi of Drag Me To Hell and the Spider-man trilogy and casts James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams.

James Franco is Oscar Diggs, a womanizing con artist and stage magician who, after he tries to escape the wrath of a circus wrestler in a hot air balloon, gets carried away to the magical Land of Oz. There he meets quite a few magical characters : Theodora the good witch (Mila Kunis), Evanora the wicked witch (Rachel Weisz), Glinda the good witch of the east, The Master Tinker, China Doll, The Munchkins and the Flying Monkey and many more.

Despite the plethora of characters, hardly anyone gets to play any meaningful role except Franco and the three lovely ladies. And there comes the first flaw of the film. Despite having its roots in such a beautiful story, the film tries hard to sell itself using the clichéd formula of star-power and visual effects. James Franco is not entirely convincing as Oz, neither is the story, at times. One particular moment that kind of offended me was Theodora’s instant transformation from the naive, kind beauty to the green-skinned and broom-riding witch. The suggestion that just the hint of a heartbreak can bring about that kind of change in a woman is not something that goes along well with one’s sensibilities. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams do their respective jobs well, which, admittedly, isn’t too taxing to begin with.

As for the special  effects, the film is a visual treat. The initial gray shade of Kansas is something that has been done in keeping with the original book. Even if you’re a newbie like me, the contrast between that drab Kansas and the joyful colors of Oz can only make you happy. The land of Oz has been created with liberal use of rich vibrant colors, some cool and some not-so-cool animation, and a theme that is both rooted in the original novel and a is a childish pleasure to watch. The Emerald palace, the munchkins and the flying monkey, the yellow brick road, the scenery..most of it has been created with a simplicity that is refreshing and entertaining.

To sum up, Oz The Great and Powerful is definitely no Oscar winner, and yet, it fulfills the expectations that you have from most animated movies : entertainment, the feel-good factor, the simple morals and easy innocence of most things magical and beautiful.

Worth a watch? Definitely.

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