Oscar Diggs (James Franco) explains to the China Doll why she can’t come help kill a witch.

Oscar Diggs (James Franco) explains to the China Doll why she can’t come help kill a witch.

Reel Reviews: There’s no place like Oz

The Great and Powerful Oz is worth another trip down the yellow brick road.

  • Mar. 15, 2013 5:00 p.m.

Oscar Diggs, a small-time magician from a dusty Kansas circus, is whisked away by a tornado during a desperate hot air balloon escape. Coming to rest in a vast, colourful and strange new world called Oz, he discovers the opportunity to be the important man he always thought he was meant to be.

Trying to overcome his faults and fight on behalf of strangers in a world full of magic and danger, the Wizard of Oz sets himself up as the great and powerful man behind the curtain.

We say, “It’s worth it.”

HOWE: I guess this will always be compared to The Wizard of Oz, and I guess the question is, does it do it justice? I would have to say yes and no. It’s not going to be a classic like the old one, but it is a beautiful and fun movie.

TAYLOR: This film has every reason to succeed, except for one, magic. In 1939, The Wizard of Oz was a film unlike anything ever seen. Although Oz The Great and Powerful has a high level of beauty and is an all-around excellent movie, it’s not the kind of film that is going to wow audiences like the original. I’m not sure what filmmakers today would have to do to elicit that kind of wonder.

HOWE: How about Smellorama? Disney did a good job with this and gave it an old fashioned feel throughout. Starting with the opening scenes being in black and white, then upon entering Oz changing to colour. Even the backgrounds look like they were hand-painted rather than CGI. One thing it was lacking though, was not enough songs. Maybe the Munchkins were happier to see Dorothy than the wizard.

TAYLOR: The film is deserving of respect. It’s well made and stands up well alone, but is also smart enough to pay homage to the original. Oz manages to set up certain situations and characters that will come to light in The Wizard of Oz, as well as explaining some of the past history of Oz. The film maintains a strong connection to Frank Baums’ books, and is full of references to them.

James Franco’s magician is a charlatan, even before he gains the power and respect of the population. The phoney behind the curtain finds himself in a perfect storm of opportunity and everyone who knows the truth about him plays along in order to get what they want. The subtext is for the adults, the action is for the kids. Be warned: It gets a little scary, wicked witches, angry faces with big, booming voices.

HOWE: I didn’t take my little boy to see this, but after watching it, I don’t think there was anything too scary or offensive in it that he couldn’t handle. Director Sam Raimi brings a flashier, more exciting tone to Oz, but this 21st century treatment is deserving and works well. So grab your goodies and lose yourself in the wonderful world of Oz.

— Taylor gives Oz The Great and Powerful 4 pairs of magic glasses out of 5.

— Howe gives it 4 doves out of 5.

The film is currently showing at Vernon’s Galaxy Cinemas.

Peter Howe and Brian Taylor are movie reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, runs in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.