Written By: Jenn-Anne Gledhill
Answer: Apparently, not much.
“OZ. the Great and Powerful.” Is Disney’s treatment of Frank Baum’s “Not The Wizard of Oz.” The IMDB plot description keeps it simple: “A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.” Good enough. We already know the dealio about Oz, right?
Let’s just start with something simple: don’t go see this unless you see it in 3-D. Long windows of time crawl by as giant, brightly colored flowers open up slowly to introduce to us this crayyyyzy new land of Oz. Without the 3D enhancement, it feels like all of a sudden, and without warning, Disney has pacing issues .
(From my perspective, Disney did “suddenly” have an unusual struggle. The Mouse in my opinion, is “The King of the World-building!” . I fell in love with Walt Disney, hard core, at the age of ten for this this magical ability to sell us new, fully functional worlds. He is one of the reasons I write. But, as this slightly predictable landscape of Oz unfolded, all I could think was that the Judy Garland/MGM/non-CGI Wizard of Oz was more creative than what I was seeing on this colossal movie screen. For any other studio, I would give them a pass. But I won’t give Disney a pass on failing to transform the space in front of my eyes into something altogether new, and believable, and visually delicious…)
Now, about the script.
I left the theater befuddled, trying to pinpoint exactly “what “and how much of that “what” failed in this film. I was left with more questions than answers:
- Who was the intended audience? No self-respecting adult can buy into that talking monkey, no matter how PETA-sympathetic they try to make his face. There was also no character created just for the kids. The China Doll was young, but was a side kick to a side kick, and will never ever sit at the Happy Meal table in the cafeteria of cute movie characters. Teens might go. Might. It’s rated PG, so they can go by themselves to the Cineplex at the mall on Friday nights. (That’s what kids still do on Friday nights, right?)
- What tone were we reaching for, here? Was it whimsy? A fairy tale? A morality tale? I couldn’t tell. The script reached into too many pockets. I’m sure the “tongue in cheek-iness,” the bad jokes, and the 4th wall asides were all probably placed in the script to hide the seams between “kid movie” and “adult movie,” But, instead, they strike you between the eyes like an unwelcome branch you didn’t see coming on a trail. It whacks us, and we have to take a minute to wipe our eyes and find our bearings again and again.
- Were they intentionally trying to keep Oz’s character a little sympathetic? (I suspect Franco’s extremely limited range might have been part of the problem, but I’m doing my best to stay in the screenplay end of this shallow pool) I was a little surprised to hear his character fear that he might not pass the “good heart” test of flying through a bubble (A bubble that looked just like the Dawn dish soap variety I buy for my son at the dollar store…) Up to that point I just saw him as a cheapskate prankster with a line for every lady. He wasn’t necessarily bad, and he seemed minutes from redemption from the very start.
- I never felt Oz was in real trouble. Stakes, stakes, stakes.
- James Franco can’t act.
- The over-employed Mila Kunis didn’t have the depth and weight in her soul to carry a believable transformation from an innocent sister to a rageful nemesis worthy of the legendary Oz.
- My biggest wish was that they had picked a direction on the movie making compass, be it Magic, Toungue in Cheek, Scary, Morality Tale…and then nailed it to the wall..
- The ingredients of this movie don’t add up to the cake it was baked to be. I think there was ultimately too much vanilla in this mix.