Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oz The Mildly Great, but Powerful? Maybe Not: Our Review of Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)

Director: Sam Raimi (Spider-Man)

Starring: James Franco (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Mila Kunis (Ted), Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy), Zach Braff (Scrubs) and Joey King (The Dark Knight Rises).

Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.

Synopsis: When a carnival magician is whisked from Kansas to the wonderful world of Oz filled with witches and talking flying monkeys, he must decide whether to be the great man he desires to be or the good one that Oz needs.

Andrew: OK! So we just got out of seeing this weekend's big release,Oz, The Great and Powerful. Released by Disney and directed by Sam Raimi, it's a prequel to the classic, Wizard of Oz, and by prequel I mean before hand. It's the story of how Oz gets to the Land of Oz and actually becomes the Wizard that we all know. It's based more on the actual books by L. Frank Baum...

Sarah: Well, it is based on the books by Baum.

A: Exactly, but there are a lot of homages to the original movie so it's the unofficial prequel for all intents and purposes. Starring James Franco as Oscar Diggs "Oz," Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch.

S: Along with a great secondary cast! Zach Braff (Scrubs) plays Finley the flying bellhop monkey and Joey King (The Dark Knight Rises) as China Girl who in my opinion where the most fun characters to watch. So this was a big movie for us, obviously being a part of the Disney family with Andrew at ESPN as well as being a big family movie that a lot of people have been waiting for. Now that we've seen it, what did you think?

A: I actually really, really liked it! I won't go so far as to say that I loved it but it was pretty entertaining. There were some funny moments, there's definitely some action and peril and I just felt that it was fun movie to go see. Definitely better than Jack The Giant Slayer...

S: Definitely! In the sense of family movies that have come out this year so far, this one definitely stands alone at the top. I will agree with you on that...

A: I think where the split happens is in the acting. It's kind of 50/50 as far as the strengths and weaknesses of the cast. This is an interesting talking point because I have read several reviews where some reviewers really liked some actors and not others and vice versa. So I'm curious as to what you thought about the acting. Who did you like and who didn't you like?

S: Well here's the thing, you say 50/50 and I think that is 100% spot on. There were two actors that really shined through and fit in with the story and two that in my opinion where just abhorrent. I loved Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch...

A: Really?!

S: And I am not a fan of hers normally...

A: No you are not!

S: I find that she's a very weak actress normally. But knowing the original role of Glinda the Good Witch I think that, to me, she truly embodied Glinda. Also Rachel Weisz as Evanora! I think that Weisz is a stronger actress to begin with but I loved her evil, she definitely shines as a wicked character.

A: Well this is the first studio movie that she has been in since The Mummy and The Mummy Returns.

S: Yeah, it's been a while since we've seen her. We've seen plenty of her husband recently (Daniel Craig) so I think a lot of people forget about her. She's really a pretty good actress and shes beautiful so she brings that beauty and evil to the screen really well in this movie. But James Franco and Mila Kunis were the worst choices for their roles! I thought that Franco was a joke in this role. We've talked about this before, I think he is one of the flattest actors and you can totally tell when it's a movie that he really cares about and has a vested interest in and when it's a movie that he's just doing because. These are not his movies, I think he really needs to stick to his stoner flicks because that's where he shines. I realize that's pretty harsh, but I give no apology. And Mila Kunis...I feel like needs to stick to her Rom-Com roles, evil is not her strong point.

A: Well she was good in Black Swan.

S: Different. Yeah, but she's not really the evil character.

A: But she's a darker character...

S: But it's just different to me, maybe it's more that she doesn't play kitschy anger well. She just wasn't convincing in the role...

A: That's the thing.


the Wicked Witch of the West is arguably one of the most classic villains of all time.

A: No, not arguably, a classic villain.

S: Yeah, and Mila Kunis' Wicked Witch was just loathsome....But now that I've kind of vented on the acting what did you think?

Maybe not the best fit for this movie. Good thing you have set roles to fall back on!
A: I am actually in complete agreement with you. I'm a little surprised that you said Michelle Williams but I completely agree with you. She was the best cast actor for her character in this film in her role; she's kind, she's gentle, she's beautiful, everything that this character should be. I thought Rachel Weisz was really good in her role as Evanora. She's not given a whole lot to do...

S: No.

A: But for what she has to and for the evil, and like you said, she's beautiful as all the witches are. I agree with you, Franco...there are moments where I liked him in the role such as the beginning where he plays like womanizing, con-man and for that sort of thing he kind of worked in the role. But almost everything else, he just didn't feel right to me. And I've told you before, Robert Downey, Jr.was originally talked to about the role, and I actually found myself at various times thinking, "I wonder how Downey, Jr. would have done that scene," and I think Downey would have been a much better choice.

S: Yeah, I think so too and you know, James Franco's looks bothered me a little bit too. He's so young looking and since I don't think there's a ton of years that pass between this Oz and Dorothy's Oz and Dorothy's Oz is a much older man. And so it bothered be a little bit that he just looked so young, I just think it was the wrong choice.

A: Yeah, I also think it was his personality that just didn't necessarily mesh with the script and there was something about his voice...

S: And that cheesy grin...

A: I just could have done without him.

S: There are times though, when Franco is serious, that it's touching and he can evoke emotion from the audience, I just don't find him very consistent.

A: Exactly, when we meet China Doll for the first time and he's gluing her legs back on, you're right, there were scenes like that where I felt he did just fine but when he's trying to play this grand magical and theatrical guy, it's just didn't work for me. And then Mila Kunis, she's very pretty obviously which works for Theodora early on in the movie but when she's starting to turn into the Wicked Witch, it was her voice! I love Mila Kunis' voice because it's different and it works so well on Family Guy...


A: Yeah, but for the Wicked Witch of the West, does not work. When she does the cackle? Doesn't work. And so I was trying to think in my head, "who would be better in the role?" Would Anne Hathaway have been better?

A/S: Ehhhh

A: Would Natalie Portman have been better?

A/S: Ehhhh

A: So it's like, it's a really tough role to cast and so I couldn't come up with one, but it's definitely not Mila Kunis.

S: Yeah I can't...I almost wouldn't have minded if Rachel Weisz had been the Wicked Witch of the West instead of Evanora...

A: Yeah I don't know, it just didn't quite work for me. But so yeah, I'm in complete agreement with you there. But the secondary characters; Zach Braff as Oz's assistant in the Kansas show and then as Finley the flying monkey, I thought he was hilarious! And when Finley comes on the screen it's almost like it's his movie! He gets a lot of lines! And Joey King as China Doll was great; to me China Doll is the best part of the whole movie, she looks amazing.

Hands-down the best two characters in the movie, Finley and China Doll
S: That's was the main thing is how amazing she looks. Once again though with the animation, as with Jack The Giant Slayer, she is obviously the animated character that is paid the closest attention too.

A: I think also, we noticed during the credits that they mention a marionette puppeteer so there might have been some actual marionette references. So that's pretty cool. 

S: Yeah, but....

A: She still looked way better than Finley....

S: And the flying monkeys.

A: Well to me almost everything, when Oz first gets to the Land of Oz, I'm looking at it and almost all of it is green screen because just the way it looks with Franco in the scene doesn't look good. Also when he and Theodora are running at one point, it's just so obvious that they are running on a green screen stage and it really bugged me. You shouldn't be able to tell those things, and you could.

S: That's what happens when the entire set is green screen.

The magical, computer generated Land of Oz
A: Another reason it bugged me was that it looked so fake, but the Kansas scenes were actually done on a set with painted backgrounds, just like The Wizard of Oz was...

S: Yes, and I loved that touch!

A: The beginning of the movie I loved! Or when they're in Glinda's courtyard and you can tell that they are on a set and the things around them are real. So it bugged me that when they weren't on a live set that it was so obvious.

S: There was definitely some disjointed feelings between scenes and I think that that can be blamed on Raimi.

A: Well of course. He did so well on the Spider-Man  movies though, like when Spider Man is swinging through the streets of New York City, it actually looks like he is there. So obviously this is a make-believe world so there's a lot of things you can't recreate in real-life....

S: Yeah I mean I don't think we need to go on too much of a tangent on this...

A: But I will say this, I loved the first act of the movie. Second act, when shenanigans start to go down, not so great. Pretty much after China Town it kind of slowed down. But then the final act, the climax, the big battle for Oz, I thought it was great.

S: Yeah I did too.

A: The way they tie in how he really becomes the Wizard I thought was great.

S: I thought that was genius.

A: Raimi and everybody on board did a great job with the visuals in that scene, the story, it was really really entertaining.

S: And that's the main thing I loved about this movie was all the tie-ins to The Wizard of Oz. I didn't really like that movie, it wasn't a favorite of mine growing up. It was actually kind of scary to me as a little kid. But I can still appreciate it for the classic that it is and to see all the homages that kid today may not notice. I'm sure that there are a lot of kids that have seen The Wizard of Oz, but there are plenty that haven't. I don't think my sister has seen it.

A: Yeah, that's the thing, I don't know how many kids would actually get the references in this movie. I mean there's a scene where Oz and Finley walk past a field and it's filled with horses that are different colors. It wasn't great animation but it was a nice little nod.

S: There was the Cowardly Lion...

A: Yep, and the Scarecrow reference and I think my favorite part was and "Ah, OK" moment towards the end. When The Wizard is giving out gifts, it's just really sweet. So I really liked the movie, wouldn't actually mind owning it one day, possibly. I really would like to see a sequel! See how this continues.

S: Yeah I will be interested to see how the story progresses since neither of us read the books.

A: Now just to clarify, we did not see this in 3D. It was shot in 3D and we didn't see it that way just because of show times and schedules. But I wouldn't mind going back and seeing it in it's intended form.

S: I bet it's beautiful in 3D. It's very obvious that it's made for 3D and maybe we wouldn't have had as much of a problem with the green screen if we had seen it that way.

A:  Another aspect that I really liked about it was Danny Elfman's score. It really enhanced the magical feeling of Oz.

S: So, kid friendly? As a kid movie, I actually think this falls in line with The Wizard of Oz...

A: Absolutely.

S: As far as tension, thematic elements, it falls right in line. There are some jumpy moments and I can definitely see where in 3D it would be right in your face.

A: Once again, you need to know your kids and what upsets them and what doesn't. This isn't one that would necessarily keep your kids up at night. So final thoughts...worthy of seeing in theatres?

S: Yes

A: Will we own it?

S: Maybe.

FINAL VERDICT: A must see in theatres!

(S: 3.5/5 A: 3.5/5) 

 Photo Courtesies:,


  1. Nice review as usual. I still dig your format for reviews. While my boy really liked this film my wife and brother really disliked it. I found myself sort of the in the middle. I loved the B&W opening and a few scenes in OZ were spectacular but a lot of the film just did not work for me. Overall I just found it ok but a good film for families and children. Hey it is after all a Disney film.

    1. Much appreciated! We're right there with your sentiments on the movie. Some things we loved, some things that were just kind of "meh." Definitely one that will be worth showing to kids down the road for us after they've seen the original.

  2. I love your thoughts on this movie. Yes I agree that Miss Kunis was badly cast. I would have chosen Winona Ryder or Rebecca Hall for starters. I need to rewatch this one in Imax 3D

    1. Oooo, a young Winona Ryder would have been perfect for Theodora. Rebecca Hall would've been a great choice, too. Good calls, Vern.