The reviews are in for “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and while Oz may be a pretty place to visit, critics aren’t sure just how “Great” it is.
The film is a prequel to the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz,” based on novels published in the early 1900s by author L. Frank Baum. This new rendition offers another perspective, showing how Oz, played by James Franco, comes to be wizard of the magical land only reachable via tornado. Reviewers agree “Oz the Great and Powerful” is visually stunning, with vibrant colors and intense CGI graphics. However, there might be more style than substance.
Read on for our review roundup of “Oz: The Great and Powerful”:
“James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, the grinning and rascally fairground magician from Kansas who is swept away by a twister and lands up in the magical land of Oz; we begin in monochrome and then burst into glorious color, in the traditional style. Diggs finds himself slavering at the thought of all the wealth and power involved in being mistaken for a wizard, but — wouldn’t you know it? — the decent people of Oz and the lovely good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) find some virtue in him, and we can see how this fellow’s talent for imposture could actually be a positive force.” — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
The Man (Not Yet) Behind the Curtain
“Franco fares badly when he’s forced to hold conversations with characters who aren’t really there: He looks as bored and distracted as he did when he hosted the Oscars, and he relies too much on a wide grin that makes him look manic instead of charming (imagine what Robert Downey Jr. could have done with this role). Things don’t get any better when Oscar meets actual people, either. Mila Kunis (as a gentle witch), Rachel Weisz (as her conniving sister) and Michelle Williams (as Glinda the Good Witch) are all talented actresses, but they come off as disengaged as Franco, because most of the film was shot on green screen, and the leading man doesn’t give them much to work with (Williams, who plays Glinda as a passive, soft-spoken willow of a woman, fares particularly badly).” — Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
The Good Witch
“Milking it more than Franco, however, is Michelle Williams, whose dimples ought to have their own SAG card. As Glinda the Good Witch each moment she’s on screen is a complex waltz between irony and sincerity. It’s the type of performance Catherine O’Hara would give in one of the more high concept ‘SCTV’ sketches — the ones where there weren’t any noticeable jokes. Only here it is in a gorgeous costume beside state of the art effects.” — Jordan Hoffman, Film.com
“Maybe an ‘Oz’ project needs to sing. The great score by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg gave a lyrical lift to the MGM film, and Stephen Schwartz’s numbers for the 2003 Broadway prequel ‘Wicked’ underlined the passions and yearnings of its sorceress sisters. The three witches here … have their vagrant charms and charisma, but they get no arias to explain themselves, and Danny Elfman’s background music serves less as a caress than a prod. Shorn of songs and dramatic black magic, this ‘Oz’ lands nowhere over the rainbow. For the most part, it’s ‘Wicked’ bad.” — Richard Corliss, Time
The Final Word
“This trip isn’t so notable. It’s not bad. Some bits are enjoyable. But ultimately, other than some genuinely impressive visuals, it never makes a compelling-enough case to justify its existence.” — Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
Check out everything we’ve got on “Oz the Great and Powerful.”