Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oz The Great And Powerful

Director Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great And Powerful, disappoints on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin…although there are a few bright spots.

Last week, Warner Bros. released the $200 million+ Jack The Giant Slayer utilizing little-known lead actors and the film fell below expectations.  However, it wasn’t a bad film and had heart.

This week, Disney releases another $200 million+ production with a super cast, but, if the reaction from the audience with which I saw it holds up, it’s going to be another bomb, because this film has little joy and, at its best, only a porcelain heart.
First off, the script by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire is terribly flawed.  Too much time is spent at the outset, trying to create a lead character, who has no redeeming social value.  Throughout the story, Oz is one note and we are treated to characters that move to their negative sides, including the “good” witch, who teaches the kiddies in the audience that the end justifies the means.  (Walt Disney is probably turning over in his grave.)

Now, part of the problem is the total miscasting of one of my favorite American actors James Franco.  This is the James Franco as he was hosting the Academy Awards, not the James Franco of James Dean, Spider Man or 127 Hours. Here, he exhibits no knack for imbuing his character with any likability. 

You would think it impossible to make one of my favorite actresses Mila Kunis look unattractive, but here Cinematographer Peter Deming was done with such success it was a relief when she transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West.  At least, the Witch was supposed to look ugly. 
It’s also hard to believe that Production Designer Robert Stromberg, who did the wonderful sets for Alice in Wonderland, created this fake-looking land of Oz.  Here, again, the fault has to be shared with Cinematographer Peter Deming, who decided to shoot digitally.  That, together with the production decision to make the virtual composition of the film only 50% as opposed to the two-thirds it was for Alice or the 80% it was in Avatar, added to the cheesy look of the set.  Film, as in the original Wizard of Oz, would have softened the look and made it more muted.  Here, the crispness brought out the paint and the flatness of the surfaces to which it was applied. 
Bottom line, no one from Franco down to the Village extras looked like they were having any fun with this production.  I think Director Raimi is best at darker fare.

The only real heart was shown by the porcelain China Girl, beautifully created by Sony Pictures Imageworks.  Voiced by Joey King, she was, hands down, the most interesting character and the best feature of this production.

Even with the beautiful Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, I can only give Oz The (not so) Great And Powerful a 2 out of 5.



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