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Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well. Written by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
There has been a lot of speculation about this film leading up to its release. Would James Franco be a good Oz after being third in line for the role (Robert Downey Jr was producer Joe Roth's first choice, Johnny Depp the second but Downey wasn't interested and Depp wasn't available due to his involvement with "The Lone Ranger")? Would the story allow it to stay true and lead in to the story we all know and love from the 1939 MGM film? Would it be too scary for children even with the PG rating? And all were legitimate concerns and now we have our answers.
Overall the casting was pretty good. I've haven't seen many films with James Franco except for the Spider-Man films. I'm not sure if he was the best person for the role as con-man magician Oscar Diggs, he seemed maybe a bit young for the part? Diggs is supposed to be an established magician with long-standing reputation for womanizing women and cheating people out of their money, a part that I think Robert Downey Jr would have been good for as it reminded me of "Iron Man's" Tony Stark (which may have been why Downey turned the role down as he went on to film Iron Man 3 instead).
The rest of the casting I think was pretty spot on. Michelle Williams works well as Glinda the Good, she has this angelic face and soft voice that fits with the ethereal being that is the nicest and purest hearted witch in Oz. The two sister witches, Theodora and Evanora, leave you wondering where exactly evil stems from. Two quote Glinda in the musical Wicked, "Are people born evil or do they have evil thrust upon them?" The trailers and movie posters can make it seem like the green-faced "Wicked Witch of the West" is her own character but I'm going to drop a little spoiler on you, she isn't. There are 3 witches in this film, not 4. As to the identity of ole greeny, I'll leave to you to see the film.
Two of my favorite characters are Finley (Zach Braff), the flying monkey who ends up owing Oz a life-debt, and the China Girl (Joey King). They are the only two of the main cast who are CG characters yet they have a strong presence in the film...and some of the funniest lines! There were several times I heard the audience in the theatre laughing, myself included.
Visually this film is stunning, the transition from black and white while Oscar is in Kansas to the technicolor that is the Land of Oz is breathtaking. Due to MGM having a stronghold on everything visually iconic of the 1939 film, Disney was forced to create their own interpretation of Oz while still making it seem familiar to fans of the first film. I think Disney succeeded. The colors are vibrant, the land is different yet it feels like you've been there before. In both Kansas and Oz there are plenty of nods to the original film, some of which you may miss if you aren't paying attention (so make sure you don't get distracted by your bag of popcorn!)
Overall I was quite pleased with "Oz The Great and Powerful". It's probably not a movie I'd go see over and over again in theatres (maybe if I was with someone who wanted to see it for the first time). It's rated PG and does contain a few scary elements (mostly involving some nasty baboons with wings) but there were several kids in the crowd when I went and they all seemed to enjoy it. If you are wanting to go to the movies and see something easy to watch but with humour and great visuals I say give "Oz" a try.