I firmly believe that my first words as an infant were set to music, as follows:
♫♪ Somewhere ... over the rainbow ... way up high... ♫♪
♫♪ There's a land that I heard of ... once in a lullaby ♫♪
That's how long I've been a fan of that cinematic treasure, L. Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz". I recall the annual airing of this beloved classic feeling like a holiday, like Christmas. All year long we waited - and waited - and waited. For that big announcement. The date and time the movie would air on television. And on that celebrated holy evening, my family would gather round our black and white television. Fresh popped popcorn. Plastic cups filled with cherry Kool-Aid. A hush would fall over our crowded little living room as the opening sequence of the film appeared on the big old console at the end of the room.
Sweet, innocent memories. To me, the movie is sacred. It's a masterpiece. It represents that basic human curiosity through the eyes and dreams of a little Kansas farm girl: Is the grass greener on the other side? Is there "no place like home"?
So now that you know how much this film is revered in my little mind, you'll understand why I will look at any other "Oz" production with caution and skepticism. It had better do justice to its predecessor.
And that brings us to the newest release from Disney, "Oz, The Great and Powerful", the prequel to the Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years prior, it tells the tale of how the Wizard, Oscar Diggs, arrived in the land of Oz. I saw the previews and was very excited and anxious to see this film. Sadly, it didn't measure up to my expectations.
I went to the theater with hubby, my sister-in-law and her son. Our review was unanimous: we weren't bowled over. It was ok but not a movie we we'd see a second time or rate very high (maybe 3 stars out of 5?). Tho there was much to like about the movie, we agreed the problem was the cast. We didn't buy either James Franco as Oz or Mila Kunis as Theodora. And the storyline was a little thin.
Without giving too much away, in case you haven't seen it yet, here's my review:
Let's start with the storyline. And James Franco. The two go together. I can't decide if the reason I wasn't crazy about him was his mediocre acting or that the lackluster uninspired script didn't provide much for him to work with which resulted in his appearing to sleepwalk through the movie. His performance was vacant at times. He did nothing to pull the viewer in, to make us root for him or even like him for that matter.
Now onto Mila Kunis. I saw her in "Black Swan" and was blown away at her transformation from that girl on "That 70s Show". I was never that impressed with her television acting but boy had she matured and evolved into a talented actress in her role as Lily in the "Swan". Because of that perhaps I set my expectations too high for the "Oz" role? I don't know. Let me just say this: while watching Mila Kunis in "Oz" I kept seeing her tv character, Jackie. She just didn't seem believable as the conflicted Theodora. I found myself wishing there was some other actress in her place so I could really enjoy this character who is so integral to the plot of this movie and subsequently to "The Wizard of Oz".
But the acting wasn't all bad. We thoroughly enjoyed the talented Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch and Rachel Weisz as the villainous Evanora. We loved the adorable Finley the Monkey voiced by Zach Braff and our personal favorite character, the China Girl voiced by Joey King.
This movie is worth seeing for the amazing special effects (especially those that breathed life into Finley and the China Girl), the breathtaking scenery, beautiful sets, and exquisite costumes. We were also impressed with the use of 3-D, which we had usually avoided in the past because we found it too distracting. We tried it this time and found that it definitely works with this film.
So there you have it. My review. My disappointment.
But you be the judge. If you find yourself with a free afternoon, head to the local movie theater to see this film. But better yet, wait for the DVD release and watch it in the comfort of your own easy chair. Because after all.....
There's no place like home.