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New ‘Oz’ fails to trump old classic

By Naomi Chan

Transport yourself to a black and white scene in Kansas.  Suddenly a leering tornado sweeps up everything and whisks you to the Emerald City along the yellow brick road. Sound familiar? Think again.

Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man” series), is the prequel to the timeless film “The Wizard of Oz.”

While “Oz the Great and Powerful” will not hold a special place in the hearts of generations to come, it is a light-hearted and entertaining film that explains how the wizard came to rule the land of Oz.

Oscar “Oz” Diggs, played by James Franco (“Spider-Man”), is a small-town Kansas circus magician whose only concerns are fame and fortune. While trying to escape his latest antic, he gets swept up in a tornado that transports him into a magical land called Oz. There he meets Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”), who is convinced that Oz is the great and powerful wizard that will save the land from the wicked witch and restore peace.

Bewitched by Theodora’s beauty, Oz claims to be the wizard despite not having any magical powers. Theodora rejoices, falls in love with Oz, and takes Oz to the Emerald City where he meets her sister Evanora, played by Rachel Weisz (“The Mummy”).

Unconvinced that Oz is who he claims to be, Evanora sends Oz to defeat the wicked witch and prove his power. Along Oz’s journey he meets Glinda the Good, Theodora’s and Evanora’s sister played by Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”), who informs him that it is in fact Evanora who is the wicked witch.

Through her crystal ball, Evanora watches Oz’s confrontation with Glinda and leads Theodora to believe that Oz loves Glinda. Enraged, Theodora transforms into the green-skinned wicked witch and vows revenge on Oz.

Anytime Hollywood tries to touch a classic like “The Wizard of Oz,” the results are bound to be iffy. Raimi makes a solid attempt and provides good family entertainment, yet the average acting prevents the film from being magical.

Weisz is convincing as the Wicked Witch of the East and Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) provides many laughs as the voice of Oz’s sidekick monkey, however Franco and Kunis fall a bit short. Franco lacks the ability to exhibit the powerful aura of the wizard and is more of a goofball than an all-powerful wizard. Kunis, whose character should be the most alluring, is one dimensional and does little to convince the audience that she is truly wicked inside.

What saves this film and keeps the audience engaged is the vivid scenery and animation. The CGI images are done beautifully and transport you into a world full of imagination.

Photo courtesy of Disney

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