Walt Disney Pictures, Roth Films,
James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Martin Klebba, Bruce Campbell
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a carnival magician, and a master of B.S. who courts all the pretty girls in each town. But he goes one step too far and has a strong man from the carnival out to twist his head off for chasing after his girl, so he escapes in a hot air balloon, which is carried away in a fierce storm and carries him to the magical land of Oz long before they ever heard of Dorothy. Now Oz has lost their king, and are looking for a new leader, and the legends tells of a powerful wizard who will drop from the sky, but currently it’s being run by a gaggle of witches, some good and some purely evil. This prequel to The Wizard of Oz uses the characters from the stories and the world of L Frank Baum, the author without stepping on the copyrights, and is a fabulous prequel to the early days of the Land of Oz.
Wow, this was a long awaited picture for me, and I paid the price to see this one in one of the old original real IMAX screens in 3D. It was a long trip to get to see it on a real Imax sized screen, but newer little Imax modified screens just wouldn’t cut a film like this. Oh how I was NOT disappointed by this movie. This is the best movie I’ve seen in many years! If I were to look for a weak spot, it might be James Franco. I’m not sure why they cast him as the lead, and he did his very best, but I know there could be a better casting choice, but then I thought and though and thought, and I can’t really come up with someone who would be perfect for this role. Plus, I am a real fan of the original Judy Garland “Wizard of Oz” and I remember loving it as a kid, and I still do. I also really enjoyed the Oz books, all of them. This film did a tightrope walk of homage to the Wizard of Oz, but they had a couple of problems, and they did a great job of working around them. L Frank Baum’s books are about a real land called Oz, and it was absolutely real. MGM, for some reason, threw that all away and made it a little girl’s dream. “And you were there, and you were there, but you couldn’t have been, and all I could think about was how to get back home.” (This is paraphrased with a lot missing, but you get the point.) Perhaps they figured that audience in that day could not handle a movie with so many strange characters that was not somehow just a dream. But this movie is true to the Land of Oz of Mr. Baum’s books, so they treat it as a real place. Still, as you watch, you’ll see a lot of stuff that is pure homage to the original movie, and the ignore some of the stuff that doesn’t quite work out with a fantasy dream world. Disney did an awesome job building this story.
The greatest strength of this film is the beautiful world that was created. The beauty of this world is the most wonderful place we’ve seen since perhaps Avatar, and it reminds me a lot of the world of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with all the whimsy and wonder, but a beauty of waterfalls and flowers that has to be seen (preferably in IMAX) to be believed. There’s some really cute characters that you probably have seen in the previews, but I’m not going to say more because they way the are found and the way they fit in is really wonderful.
The story is A++ and the characters are great, but this is PG rather than G as it might be a little too scary for little bitty kids. Once they’re old enough to understand that it’s a movie and the witches and monsters are just pretend, it would be okay, and this is highly different for different kids, but little kids could really get nightmares from some of the really scary monsters like the witch’s flying baboons and the witch’s threats and really bad attitude. So keep the 1 year old’s away, but older kids, and teens will probably love it. Whether you’re familiar with the original OZ or not (and who isn’t?) there’s very much to enjoy in this film for everyone, so it’s one not to be missed. This is Disney at it’s very best. Go see it as soon as possible.
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