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Oz: the Great and Powerful (2013)


OZ: The Great and Powerful

Looking at the box office charts of 2013 will produce, quite possibly several of the greatest disappointments in the most recent cinematic history. Most, if not all of the hyped blockbusters have flopped. Seeing the Oz trailer way back when, my mother and I turned to each other with the agreement, we’d have to see Disney’s take on the classic Wizard of Oz story, and as it turns out, this is one of the best movies that has played on my television this year. 

Conning the good people of Kansas is part of Oscar Diggs (James Franco) grander scheme. Known as Oz, the petty magician is all about putting on tricks in the show he performs at the travelling circus, and using dubious ethics to get a good take for his show aren’t beneath him. Mistreating his assistant and leaving a string of broken hearts in his wake, Oz’s day is about to go from bad to worse. Following a disastrous show, he is forced to flee when an angry father threatens bodily harm. His method of travel is a hot air balloon, only trouble with that is the balloon flies right into a twister bent on destruction. When Oz wakes up, he finds himself in a mystical land where he meets the impressionable witch named Theadora (Mila Kunis) whose infatuation with Oz is only tapered by her realization that he is the prophesied wizard whom the Land of Oz has been waiting for. Her evil sister Evanora (Rachel Wiez) is not so easily swayed.  

Theadora’s mistake is bringing Oz to the Emerald City under the assumption that she and Oz will rule the city together while his blind infatuation with the city’s wealth leads him to believe Evanora’s story that a wicked witch named Glinda (Michelle Williams) is out to ruin their land. Assisted on his journey into the dark forest to find Glinda is the loyal Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and an orphaned china doll (voiced by Joey King), Oz sets out to lay claim to the untold wealth but… who is the real villain? Along the yellow brick road, Oz just may discover what it means to rise to the goodness the people of Oz believe of him. 

Both my mother and I wishing to see this was an irony as we share a common feeling of mediocrity for the Judy Garland classic although we both enjoyed the contemporary re-telling, TinMan. Furthermore, both of us were left with only good things at the end of this re-tooled adaptation. So far this may be my favorite film of the year – bear in mind by saying this, I’ve skipped over seeing several of the blockbusters of the year. It’s not because the script is clever and knows it or that the effects were dynamic – many people will likely be put in mind of Alice in Wonderland while glimpsing the animated sets, rather that the film was the “complete package.” It has something for everyone. The scope of each frame ignites imagination, there is humor that never strays from being “appropriate,” plus (bonus!) any costume drama lover will be able to see some gorgeous fashion, and then there is a sparkling of romance for those of us who like stories with subtle undertones of love. Disney made a charmer of a fantasy flick that bubbles over by way of personality and a personable cast.  

Seeing James Franco co-host the Oscars a few years ago pretty much cured this girl of any minimal interest there may have been of Franco’s acting credits. Much to my shock, he was actually pretty good in this role; he made Oscar equal parts charm and through the 130 minutes that viewers journey through Oz, he learns valuable lessons, changing into a different, far better, man. Thinking back on the film now as I write this, the even more impressive feat was that the transition didn’t seem extreme. While the closing credits reveal Oscar – or the Wizard, as a “good” man, he is still a bit of a rascal in need of corralling. Rare in show business today is an emotional transformation that feels, looks and is legitimate and this one came darn close. Counteracting that are the silly charms Oscar plies the ladies with – between Theadora and eventually Glinda, the Wizard has more than one lady fall under his spell and while I don’t mind how it resolves itself (in fantasy, there has to be some leeway), those of you who prefer love stories to have more substance may not like the implications in the ending. Given its fairytale “fluff,” I “bought” it the same way that I accept nearly all of the fairytale romances that seemingly happen with none or little development. (After all, most are based on a kiss after hundreds of years sleeping or a glance at the ball!) 

Supporting cast is tolerably good, surrounding Franco with some interesting personalities – I wasn’t overly fond of any of the female leads for these roles. Mila is pretty good in her role considering she has the biggest 180 personality switch to contend with, Rachel is tepid (more of a "fun" mean than terrifying what with her swishing her sparkly skirts around and the like), and Michelle isn’t nearly the character I’d have wanted of Glinda. She embodies a nice Glinda, not a memorable one. That being said, none of the cast ruined the film and in fact the stars of the movie were Joey King voicing China Girl and Finley – and believe me when I say usually I am not at all fond of monkeys. These two supporting characters are the jewels of the script. China Girl’s innocence and whole-hearted faith in the Wizard is precious (tell me you don't love her little temper tantrum - so cute!), and Finley’s rambling commentary and eventual trust in the Wizard is admirable. I dare you not to like these two – incidentally, they work double time, not only by earning our sympathies and grating on our nerves (over their safety) but also unearthing our laughter! 

Lest you didn’t realize it, ‘Oz’ is an origins story. It’s not the typical narrative and is instead about what comes before Dorothy, the Tin Man and company follow that yellow brick road. With a sequel already in play, this viewer is curious to see what will come next to the franchise. Though the effects aren’t always brilliant, the transfer from black-and-white to colorful full frame was achieved to its greatest potential and made a splashy impact. Also to its credit were the many great things about the script including the parallels to the Wizards life as a mortal and the distinction Glinda helps him realize about his character – his weakness may have been his selfishness, yet by the end (and the “gifts” he passes on) what he did for Oz spoke more than his past indiscretions. The film is beautifully fanciful, darling and entertaining. Because of that, it’s quite possibly one of the most charming fairytales I’ve seen in a while.  
What’d you all think of this film?
Was it one of your 2013 favorites? 

(Parental concerns: women transform into frightening witches, terrifying creatures fly at the screen seeking prey. Oscar is a womanizer – he charms women with a sappy story about his grandmother while loving a girl he leaves because he isn’t good enough for her. The film is rated PG.)
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Rissi
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45 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! I had sort of forgotten about this one, to be honest. :) I didn't see it in theaters but wanted to see it on DVD. I love the classic film and have Tin Man on my Netflix queue, so I need to check this one out!

    ~Kristin

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    1. Cool! Let me know what you thought of both once you see them. 'Oz' is fanciful and just... fun. Many critic reviewers didn't like the female characters in the movie because their "purpose" falls more into being a pretty face than a memorable heroine but I didn't look at the story that way and instead enjoyed the "fun" of it - plus I cannot resist the cuteness of Finley and China Girl. :)

      Happy viewing, Kristin!

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  2. I saw the trailer in the theater but haven't seen it yet. Since converting to a die hard fan of the "Wicked" musical, I find most Oz stories (and even, to a degree, the original Wizard of Oz film) hard to take, odd as it sounds. Elphaba is my favorite character and after Wicked, it's hard to see the Wicked Witch being...really....bad. :D

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    1. "No good deed will I do / again!!" Man, that is such an AWESOME musical/.

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    2. Alexandra - haven't seen WICKED! but know many girls who LOVE it. If the film version is ever made, for sure I'll be in line to see it. If not, I'll forever be destined to hear all of you rave over its greatness. ;)

      You know, I sort of feel as if this was a small glimpse into the workings of the Wicked! story. Sure the character's were likely not nearly as developed but beyond that, it was different from the traditional story of "Oz." To be honest, I didn't see anyone as really "wicked" in this version thought of course the Wicked Witch was... unlikable.

      Hope if you see this one, you enjoy! :)

      Charity - ...yep, more proof that this sounds like a grand story. ;)

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  3. I was pleasantly surprised after being worried because the critics really seemed to hate it!

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    1. Me, too, KatySue! I almost bought it after weeks of not being able to nab a copy at the video store, then thought better of it after all the ho-hum reviews. Now, I know it would have been perfectly fine to purchase! It was SO cute. :)

      Glad you liked it alright.

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  4. Awesome review, Rissi! I wasn`t sure I wanted to see this one, but I`ll try and check it out of the library DVD collection.

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    1. Hey, Rebeka - thanks for dropping by! Oooh! When you see 'Oz,' I hope you enjoy it - it was flawed, same as anything else, but overall, it was darling. Let me know what you think. :)

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  5. I like this one...I kinda wish anyone but James Franco had been cast as the wizard, but he does an okay job. :)

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    1. Me, too, Ruth! James Franco isn't ideal in the role (his Oscar co-hosting duties basically soured me on him - not that I liked him to begin with...) yet he doesn't ruin the film either.

      Super glad you liked it also! It sure was a fun piece of Disney cinema. :)

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  6. I am wanting to watch this on DVD soon. Thanks for reviewing it!

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    1. Neat! Excited for you to see it, Ella - I think you'll enjoy it. :)

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  7. I really liked this movie. It was really sweet and had some great "exciting" moments. Glinda was forgettable, the China Girl, Finley, and Oz were my favorites and they were really sweet. It's good fun story...even if I might not have loved it I did enjoy it :) It was very pretty, the scenery. :) Great review!

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    1. I actually LOVED it, Sierra. The humor, sets and most of the character's were terribly fun. True, there were flaws (what story is perfect!?) but on the whole, Disney did a stupendous job with this.

      Me, too! Loved China Girl, Finley and of course, Oz. He was a bit of a rascal... but likable. ;)

      Glad you enjoyed it, too! It sure was a great film to get "lost" in for a while.

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  8. I was torn with this one -- part of me found it charming and likable, the rest of me balked at the sexism involved. So far my favorite movie of 213 has been Star Trek into Darness. :)

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    1. I'll say this with the stipulation that I've only seen this once; I don't think Rachel's character fell for Oz, Mila's for sure did (after ONE dance - I mean come on) and Michelle... she probably did. (It's sad but true that most of the time, females make silly choices when it comes to men spinning charming tales.) Most of me found this darling, fun and adventurous. The pacing was good (it didn't feel slow or too fast) and while some of the cast wasn't ideal, no one ruined it.

      Looking forward to 'Star Trek.' I sense a re-watch of the first is in order before the sequel releases. :)

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    2. Rachel played everyone else around her (which is why she was an awesome character), but... Glenda and the other girl falling for his smoozing charm made me go "ehhh." I don't know, having the Wicked Witch go evil over a boy is just... cliched. I should watch it again, though, because part of me liked it a lot!

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    3. That she did - the woman didn't really care who she stepped over to get what she wanted. Glinda wasn't quite as "swayed" as Mila's character which was nice. But at the end there, she was totally under his spell. *sigh* Ah, the things we do while in love. ;)

      Let me know what you think if you give it a re-watch, Charity - I know I'll certainly enjoy seeing it again. It was cute.

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  9. I'm really glad that you liked this one, Rissi! I'm really wanting to see it again. I liked it a lot the first time and I think those parts of me that might have felt mediocre would be cured by being able to watch it again already knowing what's going to happen, so I can just enjoy everything for what it is. I'll definitely be adding this one to my collection before too long!

    My one annoyance with the film was...haha, James Franco's toothy smiling all the time. All that teeth (and gum) got on my nerves, haha. ;)

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    1. I am sensing this movie will find a spot on my shelf also, Kellie! The good outweighed the bad; there was adventure, great comedy (thanks to Finley!) and a spot of romance. Once you see it again, I wish you happy watching.

      James Franco wasn't ideal in the role (his one turn co-hosting the Oscars soured me on him as an actor - before that I cared little one way or the other) although he is creditable enough. His character is enough to grate on ones nerves. That is for sure. ;)

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  10. Haha, I lost all my (little) respect for Franco when I saw him host the Oscars too. And that's probably why I have so little interest in this movie... or had -- your review makes me a bit more interested. :) I thought Tin Man was awesome.

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    1. Knowing next to nothing about Franco prior to the Oscars probably didn't help, but yeah, I had a strong reaction that the dude wasn't going to be a favorite actor, Sarah. Must agree!

      Tin Man *was* awesome - how right you are! This is more of a "traditional" re-telling though still every bit as fun. If you see it, I hope you enjoy.

      BTW: Thanks for the blog follow and comment, Sarah - really appreciate both. :)

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    2. True, I'd only seen him in the Spider-Man trilogy before, and he probably wouldn't have ever been a favorite anyway. :P

      If I ever get around to watching it, (which I probably will eventually) I imagine I will enjoy it, thanks!

      You're welcome, I enjoy your reviews!

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    3. Ooo! Yes, forgot that I'd seen Franco in the Spidey movies. He was good in those.

      Cool! I'll look for a review if you ever see 'Oz,' Sarah. Though not perfect, it's darling. :)

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  11. Ya know, this is one I wanted to see prior to reading reviews. Then I was thinking I would pass on it. But you've inspired me. You've got me thinking I must rent it asap. Fanciful and darling? SOLD!!! :D

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    1. It's terribly cute, Juju. If you see the film, give me a shout-out on whether or not you liked it. :)

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  12. I absolutely loved this movie! Mainly because The Wizard of Oz was my favorite book series when I was little. I hope they make a sequel!

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    1. There is a sequel in the works already, Ivy. *throws confetti* That should be a blast. :)

      Yay for a fellow viewer who was entertained by this!

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  13. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Rissi! It wasn't a favorite of mine, although there were a couple things that stood out to me in a good way. But I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! :) I know you commented on this a while back, but here's my devotional post inspired by it:

    http://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/2013/03/sundays-through-seasons-spring-in-oz.html

    ~Amber

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    1. Yeah, I don't think you were alone, Amber - many viewers took issue with the movie and that's okay. All fairytales get a bit of a "pass" with me since they have a broader scope to use in order to tell their story. Taking place in a fanciful world or vivid imaginations are all excepted and encouraged - anyone looking for "real" love in most fantasy stories needs to throw that idea out of the window because generally speaking, love isn't depicted realistically. Basically, what I am trying to say is I guess that even if a movie is a bit... silly in the fairytale genre, that sits okay with me since it's also one of the genres strengths.

      It's the same with dystopian stories - those can be "out there" sometimes but are usually quite good.

      Thanks for the link! Looking forward to stopping by again. :)

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  14. Wouldn't say this is one of my '13 favorites, but I did enjoy it! Franco played his role well. My dad commented that he wished we had seen the ruby slippers- however, I read somewhere that the slippers are the property of WB, not Disney. Nonetheless, I thought it was a cute prequel and I'm glad you liked it too!

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    1. Me, too, Rosie - glad you liked it well enough. :)

      You know, I didn't miss the absence of the slippers since this was a prequel, not re-make. However, that's an interesting bit of trivia - makes me wonder what Disney will do in the second film since I'd expect that'll involve Dorothy...?

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  15. I enjoyed this movie too! Creative and well-done, though, the wicked witch of the west's stretch from beginning to end seemed a little much to me. I loved how the land of Oz was brought to life. :-)

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    1. You may be right, Gwendolyn - she was driven by a "broken heart" and her sister certainly didn't help out. She fueled the Wicked Witch's hatred and that was the integral part of her change - and when faced with the choice, she clearly chooses "evil" over good.

      The "look" of the movie was lovely! Couldn't agree more. :)

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  16. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm planning to see this one tomorrow evening with a friend of mine (I think, if she doesn't change her mind and decide on a different one). I've been very curious about it since it opened in theaters. I've read different reactions to it, but I'd still like to watch it and see what I think. So! We'll see how I'm feeling about it in 24 hours or so! :D

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    1. Cool! Did you like it, Kara?

      The film isn't perfect (of course!) but the story and characters were fun to get lost in for a couple of hours. Some critic reviewers took offense at the "sexism" in it. Me, I guess I am not a hardcore feminist so... yeah, I didn't feel insulted. ;)

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    2. Well, embarrassingly enough we didn't end up watching a movie. So I still haven't seen it. :/ I want to though!

      Sometimes it's perfectly okay to just be entertained by a movie, and not have to analyze all the why's and what's and wherefore's. Know what I mean? So, since I'm no feminist myself, I'm doubting whether it'll bother me. We shall see! :D

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    3. Oh, noes! Perhaps next time. :)

      I know just what you mean, Kara! My mother and I often say that when we watch a film, let's go for entertainment - we live life and that's hard enough. :)

      Let me know what you think of 'Oz' whenever you see it.

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  17. I've been trying to decide whether to see this one. I think you've swayed me to check it out. I actually intended to go see it in theater, but life got craaazily busy at the time and then I sorta forgot about it. Sounds like it's definitely worth the time!

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    1. Yeah, I don't get to the theater as often as I *think* I want too either, Melissa. I try to chose movies that have the promise of being new favorites, though sometimes that doesn't always work out. :)

      Hope you enjoy if you watch 'Oz,' Melissa - it sure was cute! :)

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  18. I've wanted to watch this, but I've heard mixed reviews. Glad to know you liked it!

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    1. Yes, there are mixed reviews, Hannah. Critic reviewers called it "sexist," however I found it darling and really sweet. Sure, it's flawed, but then... what story isn't!? :)

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  19. I watched this yesterday, so I came back to read your thoughts. The first time it played in our house, I didn't get to watch much at all. I told my husband that James Franco was either playing the part really well, or he was a horrible actor for the part. (He does come off goofy if you haven't seen the whole thing!)After seeing the whole movie, though, I thought he did an amazing job of playing his part! (I did NOT see him in his Oscar role. That may have changed my mind a bit from the sound of it.)

    Surprisingly, I hadn't really heard opinions about the movie, so I went into it with a clear mind. I ended up loving it! I don't recall overly loving the original(or hating it), but this one has ended up a favorite! Honestly, I'm surprised at the negative opinions I'm seeing now. I'm all for a woman saving the day, but there's never anything wrong with it being a man to save the day! ;)Plus, there's TOO many women in the world today turning "evil" over a broken heart. That's life! :)

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    1. Yay! Glad you came by to share these thoughts, Tammy. You know this movie is likely to end up being a favorite of 2013 - was it perfect? No, but it was darling and who could resist Finley or China Girl!? :)

      James isn't my favorite actor and seeing him co-host the Oscars made it worse. That being said, he played Oz just fine and didn't "ruin" anything.

      Going in unbiased is sometimes the best. I get why critics called this sexist, but being a girl who finds too many female characters a contradiction, I wasn't "bothered" by Oz being the "savior" or that two of the three fell in love with him. After all he was a con man and had made it his "work" to perfect that. Sadly, women do go to extremes to hang on to a guy instead of waking up and realizing HE IS NOT WORTH IT! As you say, "that's life!" :)

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