‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ stumbles along the yellow brick road



Cristina Lule

A few gimmicks are all that’s needed to make any show a lively and entertaining one.

At least that’s what “Oz the Great and Powerful” wants you to believe, but 3-D special effects and lavish sets are all smoke and mirrors to distract its audience from a lackluster story that doesn’t deserve center stage.

James Franco plays the titular character Oz, a carnival magician with questionable morals. Oz takes great pleasure in putting on a show and greater pleasure in taking people’s money to watch him perform. When some of his lies and misconducts catch up with him, he escapes on a hot air balloon where a storm leaves him stranded in a magical land also called Oz. He discovers there is a prophecy that tells of a magician who saves the land from a wicked witch and inherits many riches. Oz claims to be that magician, but doesn’t know if his non altruistic nature and card tricks will convince anyone.

The film is a prequel to the 1939 classic that gives insight to the inspiration of the once reclusive wizard, but behind the film’s aesthetic curtain hides a story that’s not as entertaining to watch as the props and décor.

Visually the film is a symphony of colors that harmonize and vibrate with a ferocious nature that dares to match the stunning Technicolor of the 1939 version. The first 10 minutes of the film are in black and white and displayed in a square aspect ratio; once Franco’s character arrives in Oz the colors blossom and the screen expands to a wider format. But the brilliant colors were not enough to brighten up a pale story.

The actors had little to work with, often resulting in over exaggerated performances. Franco’s boyish smile can charm us only for so long, before we cringe when he says “Let’s go make some magic” right before a show.

At times, however, the film demonstrated it was acutely self aware of its clichéd nature and made for a few laughs, but these moments were spare, making the majority of the film a task to sit through.

Although there’s no show of any ruby red slippers, the film offers a background for the wicked witch and enlightens us to the reason for her wickedness. And along the way there are a few recognizable characters and a homage to the original i.e. flying monkeys, scarecrows and that directionally dependable yellow brick road. Visibly absent though are the arm-locking sing-alongs that might have been the film’s best disappearing act – eliminating an unnecessary component.

There was some careful thought that went into conceptualizing the film, but flashy visuals, lavish sets and a wide array of costumes served only as an illusion to temporarily distract us from a performance that felt as constructed as the stage Oz performed on.


Cristina can be reached at: [email protected]