Oz The Great And Powerful

(2013)
Oz The Great And Powerful

Starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz. (PG)

 

A prequel to the classic 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz, this adventure imagines just how that wizard came to be in the land of Oz, years before he met Dorothy, the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow.

 

Beginning in black and white (as the original movie did, of course), we are introduced to carnival con man Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs (Franco, slimy yet charming), who makes his living charming ladies and hoodwinking audiences with his ‘magic’ tricks. His lothario ways finally catch up to him in Kansas, but he manages to escape a disgruntled crowd by hopping in a hot air balloon – only for it to be swept up in a freak tornado. The tornado tosses him into a new – and colourful – world, and it’s in this new enchanted land (Oz, of course) that he meets Theodora (Kunis), who is convinced that Oz the man is the person sent to save their kingdom. She and her sister Evanora (Weisz) send him – and a particularly chatty monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) – on a journey that involves witch Glinda (Williams), a sweet china doll and some rather scary flying baboons, revealing the true secrets of Oz along the way.

 

L.Frank Baum wrote a whole series of Oz books (including the one on which The Wizard Of Oz is based) and there have been unofficial sequels (Return To Oz), retreads (The Wiz and The Muppets Wizard Of Oz) and spin-offs, including the highly successful Broadway musical Wicked. This prequel, however, mainly tips its hat to Wicked and the best known film version of The Wizard Of Oz, but then goes one step farther by adding some of the best 3D effects of recent years, and some stunning computer generated imagery of the land of Oz including the Emerald City and the sunshine bright yellow brick road.

 

With director Sam Raimi at the helm – best known to kids as the director of Spider-Man, but to adults as the man behind The Evil Dead movies (and watch out for his Evil Dead pal Bruce Campbell in a cameo here) – this has some deliciously dark moments (the creepy forest, the transformation of a witch) as well as eye-catching awesome ones, and sad moments too. Young children may find the first scenes with the lovely China Girl upsetting (she is broken and orphaned) but they can be assured that she’ll be fine as Oscar changes from a shallow cad to a more caring companion as his journey progresses.

 

It’s a sign of taut direction, terrific performances (especially Williams and Kunis), great special effects and a snappy script that the movie keeps you gripped and entertained even when we know the outcome, and while the opening black and white sequence drags a little, all in all this is a fun, magical fantasy that should thrill kids of all ages (and hopefully make them want to watch the Judy Garland The Wizard Of Oz, too).

 

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SCARY MOMENTS:

The film is a PG certificate and so is generally aimed at children over the age of 8 – children younger than this and sensitive kids may find a few scenes upsetting.

 

Younger children may find the witches’ screeching baboons frightening.

The scene where Oz finds the China Girl may also upset young viewers as she is broken and her family have been killed.

Under-7s may find the Wicked Witch frightening with her green face and cackling laugh but she’s not very scary.

 

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