Director Sam Raimi has an impressive track record, having directed the highly successful Spider-man trilogy and horror favorites like Drag Me To Hell. Unfortunately, his latest directorial effort, Oz the Great and Powerful, falls far short of expectations, instead delivering a dull, shallow, and forgettable adventure bereft of any kind of spirit, emotion, or fun.
Sly con-artist Oscar Diggs(James Franco) travels around the West, scrounging up just enough money to survive. His life changes when an escape in a hot air balloon leads him to Oz, the land of witches and flying monkeys dressed as bellhops. Oscar must rely on his skills as a con-artist if he has any chance of saving Oz and the good people who call it home.
James Franco makes a good Oz, accurately presenting him as a dishonest man who covers his lies with a winning grin. He is the furthest thing from likable, but at least Franco stays true to the character. Rachel Weisz plays the evil Evanora, who is not only an uninteresting, flat villain, but who literally does nothing but summon flying baboons and shoot green lightning from her fingers. We never really get a sense of why she’s such a threat, and honestly, we probably won’t care. And now we come to Mila Kunis, whose performance as Theodora(the Wicked Witch of the West) is laughable, sickening, and just plain weird. Hearing her voice attached to a pointy green face just sounds wrong, and as watched her act, I imagined Margaret Hamilton(the original Witch) tossing and turning in her grave. Thankfully, Michelle Williams(Glinda the Good Witch) and Zach Braff(Finley the Flying Monkey) turn in genuine, entertaining performances, almost making up for the film’s sub-par acting.
I understand the potential appeal of this movie, and I’m sure Raimi was very deliberate in his filmmaking decisions. I just didn’t have any fun. The storytelling is thin, shallow, and predictable, and I lost interest thirty minutes into the film. The characters are flat, Franco makes out with chicks he just met, and the last half of the film is underwhelming, anti-climactic, and rushed. On top of that, I didn’t care about any of the characters, except for Finley. Any monkey who can moo at the moon to provide a distraction(that actually happens) instantly earns my respect.
Despite the film’s many missteps, I did enjoy drinking in the breathtaking landscapes. The large, craggy rocks jutting up into the sky and the vibrant jungles of Oz do a fantastic job putting viewers there with the characters. If there’s one positive thing I’d take away from the film, that would be it.
Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t a terrible film, it just didn’t appeal to me. After some thought, I get what Raimi was trying to do when he made the film. Did he succeed? Of course he did. But cheesy, hollow, forgettable adventure flicks are not my cup of tea.
1 out of 5 stars