Director: Sam Raimi
If you’ve never seen “The Wizard of Oz,” stop right here and go and watch it. We’ll be here when you get back. Finished? Good, wasn’t it? Now, the question is: can Sam Raimi really do justice to what is one of the most beloved movies of all time? And the answer? He can have a damn good try.
Oscar (James Franco) – or ‘Oz’ to his friends – is a magician languishing away doing tricks in the Kansas carnivals during the 30s. But when a hurricane transports him to the magical Land of Oz he discovers that that he may be a magician prophesised to save the land. Unconvinced, he decides to go along for the ride, possible money and the beautiful witches Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz). But his conniving and corny ways are tested when finds himself with Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams) and discovers he’s been manipulated. Soon Oz must try and discover just how to use his sleight-of-hand for good and fulfil his dreams of being someone.
This telling of how the Wizard actually made it to Oz in the first place can’t help but slightly suffer in comparison to the original but, to his credit, Raimi avoids aping the original too much while still adding touches that evoke its memory (including beginning the film in black and white and then moving to colour). There’s a certain joy to behold in seeing how the film introduces the origins of characters that we know and love and – despite being a bit too long – there are plenty of impressive set pieces including the ‘China Town’ (which is not what you think) and the film’s climactic battle.
Franco is fine, though perhaps the nasty side outweighs the heroic part of the character at points, and the trio of female witches are clearly having fun – especially Kunis.
This is a solid Hollywood fairy tale which works as a fine homage to one of the best films of all time – though the film is (mainly) free of singing. Whether this is a good thing most likely depends on how much you love “Over the Rainbow.”