I had apprehensions going into Oz, Evil Dead director Sam Raimi’s shot at family fare, with the last two months looking like Hollywood’s dumping ground for subpar fantasy adventure films. Both Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Jack the Giant Slayer have bombed harder than Dorothy’s farmhouse these past few weeks.
Unfortunately, Oz will probably do the same. What’s worse, it will tarnish the memory of a classic movie on its way down.
Oz is the same 3D adventure we’ve all experienced before, where human actors do their best to interact with a green screen because, at any second, all sorts of fantastic projectiles are going to be lobbed at them. But you know that they’ll always duck out of the way at the very last second. After all, we pay good money to see those objects pop out of the screen!
The story begins in black and white as Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a.k.a Oz, sleazes it up as a two-bit magician in a two-bit circus. And, just like Dorothy, the future wizard skips town for the colorful land of Oz through one of those pesky inter-dimensional tornadoes.
Upon landing, he meets the beautiful Theodora (Mila Kunis) who immediately tells Oz how the wizard is supposed to fulfill a prophecy by killing the wicked witch.
It’s all explained so matter-of-factly even toddlers could find it patronizing.
Both Franco and Kunis are terribly miscast and often appear less real than their computer animated counterparts. In fact, the most touching moment comes from a broken China Girl (Joey King), and Zach Braff as a flying monkey manages to get the most laughs.
Michelle Williams, on the other hand, is genuinely magical as Gilda the Good Witch, and she brings the warmth of the original to an otherwise sterile experience that sometimes even fails in the special effects department.
You can’t blame the movie for abandoning the central message of, “There’s no place like home.” We all know that Oz has to stay in “Oz” for the original film to occur.
And that’s just the problem: Anyone who knows Victor Fleming’s 1939 take on L. Frank Baum’s story (and who doesn’t?) knows exactly where the characters will be by movie’s end.
What’s left is an experience lacking bravery, brain and heart.
One would be wise to bring a pair of ruby slippers – before the second act you’ll be clicking like crazy.