Monday, March 18, 2013

Mousey Movie Review - Oz the Great and Poweful

Movie poster showing the cast of Oz the Great and Powerful
Sometimes I worry that I might get labeled a Disney apologist. Maybe some of you might think I like everything with a Disney label on it. It’s not true. Sometimes if I don’t like it I simply do not waste words on it. But with Oz the Great and Powerful, I feel since I have posted a few trailers I have to share my thoughts.

Part of me thinks my thoughts do not matter on this issue. First, it is not like everyone agreed with my thoughts on last March’s movie John Carter. It’s not like I could save it. Second, since Oz the Great and Powerful has now dominated two weekend box offices I know my words will fall on deaf ears. But nonetheless just let me lay out my Mousey Movie Review of the latest visit to Oz.

It’s really not very good! Everyone that I have talked to except for one friend seems to agree, and I cannot believe those of you who saw it did not tell your friends (or me) so they could avoid it during weekend number two. You are mean America:

The Wizard of Oz
  • Leading Men: John Franco playing Oz has a tough mountain to climb. Let us be honest, two men currently define the Disney leading man. First you have Johnny Depp who crushed two Marches ago with Alice in Wonderland. Second, you have Robert Downey Jr., who could bring emotion and character to paint drying. Franco simply does not match up to these high standards. At times I felt like I could tell that he was delivering lines in stale green screen sets. I just never fully bought him as Oz. Additionally, the writing behind the magician turned Wizard does not help. The writers never provide Oz with the true turn around in his character. He is just as flawed when the movie is over then when it begins.  
  • Strange Looks: The CGI also does not help the movie. Yes there are plenty of breathtaking backgrounds. But some of those seem blurry and fake at times. Additionally the matching of live action to computer-animated images is poor. In one scene as the Wizard was holding China Girl you can see a gap between the fragile youngster and Oz’s hand. It simply does not always look right.
  • Flying Monkeys: The best part of Oz the Great and Powerful is Finley the flying monkey voiced by Zach Braff. Finley amongst all of the characters is the most “real” and dare I say human. He is loyal, compassionate, funny, faithful, realistic, and warm. The fact that Finley has the best showing makes me sad since he is a CGI character with a voice over. Yet Braff seems to do a better job conveying emotion with just his voice where many of those around him fail with their entire selves.
  • Fantasy Faire: In many ways I felt like Oz was a secondary character. To me the interesting characters were the witches Theodora played by Mila Kunis, Evanora played by Rachel Wiesz and Glenda played by Michelle Williams. Despite the fact that Oz is the one they state will bring the prophecy to free Oz from evil about, it really feels like the women are driving the action. Honestly, the battle for Oz feels like it could have been waged without the male lead. 
The Wicked Witch
  • Dark Ride: Oz’s arrival in Oz may have been one of the best moments to me. His journey through the river in his balloon feels like it could be a dark ride. Imagineers could easily craft an attraction that is part Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland and part Peter Pan’s Flight to offer us something really wonderful. Sadly, a 4-minute ride may do a better job depicting this story to its audience! I am not the only one that saw this as the Between Kid yelled out, “I would ride this”.
  • White Elephant Gifts: The Between Wife changed her status after the movie to “The Wizard gives the worst gifts ever.” In the original MGM Wizard of Oz we have a gift scene in which objects represent something bigger like brains, heart, and courage. Here we have a similar gift scene, but the gifts really do not have a label that indentifies a bigger idea. For example, one gift could be labeled joy or happiness. Instead, the Wizard just basically says it is something that everybody could use sometimes and gives it to a grumpy character. Please Wizard, try harder when you shop!
  • Bookends: This offering clearly pays tribute to the MGM classic The Wizard of Oz. Like this classic film, Oz the Great and Powerful opens in black and white and in Kansas. We see Oz’s problems in our world and he makes some mistakes in his relationships. In the original, we return to Kansas and we get those storylines wrapped up in a little bow. Here, not at all. In my mind, we got 3/4ths of a movie. And the fact that Oz really does not reform much just helps push that impression.
There are some really cute things here, like Oz working for the Baum Brothers Circus a tribute to Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum. And I was pretty excited to see Oz the Great and Powerful. But for me it feel flat, felt slow and had numerous story problems. With a sequel confirmed, I have already made my viewing plans for the next installment. I will be renting the next Oz film!  Do you agree?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review, Daniel. We both disliked the film, but for different reasons.

    I much preferred China Girl to Finley, probably largely because China Girl is from Baum's text whereas Finley is a Donkey-from-Shrek wannabe (as a friend whom I saw the film with pointed out). I thought China Girl had real emotion and was beautifully animated.

    "It felt like the women were driving the action" - Well, it should have, given the plot; but in fact, they were all waiting around to react to Oz. I do give props to Michelle Williams for a great Glinda, though. Why didn't she rally the people to her a long time ago? She's certainly dynamic enough to do so, and if folks really hate that Evanora took over after King Pastorius died, you'd think they'd be chomping at the bit to stage an "Oz Spring" rebellion...

    Your thoughts on the conclusion, however, are spot on in my book. No Kansas bookend, *and* Oz is now just a liar who lies "for the right reasons." Ugh.

    I do love the Baum Bros Circus bit, though, and am sorely tempted to buy the t-shirt of same at Disney Store even though the film is not one of my favorites.