‘Oz’ wows, but lacks magic

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Expectations are high, maybe too high, for any movie set in the Land of Oz.
It’s hard to imagine anything quite as perfect or magical as “The Wizard of Oz,” but “Oz the Great and Powerful” tries its best.
Oscar (James Franco) is the man behind the curtain: not a wizard, though he calls himself one, but a man who’s mastered sleights of hand, distractions and light tricks.
After being outed as a fake and playboy in Kansas, Oscar is transported by tornado to the Land of Oz, where he meets and woos witch Theodora (Mila Kunis).
She tells him there is a prophecy that a wizard will save Oz from the Wicked Witch of the West, and she believes he is that wizard.
With Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams), Finley the winged monkey (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King) at his side, Oscar must decide if he can become the real deal and save the citizens of Oz, or if he’ll skip out and run back to Kansas.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” and there are lots of fun nods to the 1939 film.
Oscar’s world is black and white, for example, until he lands in Oz, and there are hints at the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.
But the wonder, music and innocence of the classic movie are missing for much of “Oz the Great and Powerful” – it doesn’t pick up steam and become truly magical until the end.
Most of “Oz the Great and Powerful” drowns beneath way too much CGI; in fact, when Oscar first lands in Oz, it looks like an animated movie with live action actors.
But, it’s actually a computer-generated character that steals the show: delicate China Girl, who Oscar meets in China Town, is the life of the movie. She’s all heart and spunk, and you almost wish she was a real person.
Nothing can compare to “The Wizard of Oz,” but “Oz the Great and Powerful” has its magical moments, even if they are few and far between. Franco is no Frank Morgan, who played Oz in the 1939 movie, and there could’ve been way more Munchkins and music.
But Oz is always a delightful place to visit, even if it’s not a perfect trip.
It’s playing at the Tupelo Commons Cinema, Corinth Cinema, Oxford Studio Cinema and Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

Kelli Karlson Wizard 106.7 – She gives “Oz the Great and Powerful” an A. “It was visually stunning. I will see it multiple times.”