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Oz the Great and Powerful movie poster

Oz the Great and Powerful: Movie Review

Genre: Adventure, Family
Rated: PG
Directed by: Sam Raimi

Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Joey King, Tony Cox
Released by: Walt Disney Pictures

Run time: 130 minutes
Year: 2013

In Short: Return to the land of Oz in this winning prequel to the classic 1939 movie that's filled with wondrous visuals, a collection of memorable characters and plenty of thrills and chills for the whole family.

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Reimagining the Land of Oz for the 21st Century

Lovers of the classic 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," never fear. Fans of L. Frank Baum's fantasy-filled novels about the unique inhabitants of the Land of Oz can also breathe a sigh of relief. For with "Oz the Great and Powerful," director Sam Raimi has created a visually spectacular movie that both adults and children will enjoy, even those odd few who have absolutely no preexisting knowledge of that wonderful land.

Like the books that came before, this story is no dream fantasy, nor is it a musical, although it does parallel the original movie in many other ways. As the story begins, Oscar Diggs, a slight-of-hand conjurer and womanizing con man known as "Oz the Great and Powerful" is working in a circus sideshow in Kansas. It's the mid-1930s, a gray place where tornadoes are known to pop up in an instant. In Oz's case, it is an opportune wind that blows, as he escapes an angry crowd and is swept up into the vortex in his hot-air balloon, with only his top hat and a large leather satchel filled with tricks along for the ride.

As played by James Franco (who is one of the few weak links in the film), Oz is something of a scoundrel. And that doesn't change when his balloon touches down in the eye-popping world of Oz. He immediately meets gorgeous Theodora, the first of three witches who are battling over control of the land. As played by Mila Kunis, she's an easy witch to love; and so Oz jumps right in – and so does she.

Problem is, her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is just as fabulous, but with more than a touch of the bad girl in her, too. So when Oz arrives in the Emerald City and meets her, he cannot help but fall for her as well. And guess what? When Glinda the Good Witch turns up, personified by a lusciously beautiful Michelle Williams, Oz doesn't know which way to turn: he's in love with all three!

Michelle Williams as Glinda in Oz the Great and Powerful James Franco as Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful

Meanwhile, a fascinating cast of characters assembles around the wizard, including a pretty little China Doll, who walks and talks (and also succeeds in touching Oz's emotions); a talking flying monkey, who becomes Oz's closest ally; and a whole assortment of Munchkins, Quadlings, Winkies, Tinkers and more, the denizens of Oz who are called upon to help save the land.

And save it they must, as Theodora and Evanora are eventually revealed to be the two wicked witches that most of us know from the earlier movie. They want to control Oz, both the man and the country, and as the action heats up, it's quite a ride to the explosive finale.

From the extremely effective use of 3-D in striking sequences, along with the constantly changing, always imaginative visuals, and the storyline that seamlessly melds the tale told in the original film with a believable foreshadowing of the events that led up to the moment when Dorothy lands in Oz many years later, "Oz the Great and Powerful" satisfies on almost every level.

If only James Franco were up to the task of making Oz a true showman, the film would be a true classic. Unfortunately, that is not the case, but the movie still holds up as a delightful modern take on a story we all know and love.


Reviewed by Jenny Peters


(Updated: 05/09/13 JDM)

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