Oz the Great and Powerful: Box-Office, maybe…

…because there surely hasn’t been anything as enticing at the Big Screen thus far in the Twenty One Three.

Oz will be, for lack of a better term, the least surprising film of the year. You know what you’re getting with James Franco and his hunky-dory, Fonziesque, perfect-teeth persona. He actually does an admirable job at the physical spectrum of acting. Playing alongside CGI in front of green screen for well over 2-hours isn’t any fun; it’s no way to excuse the imperfections, either.

I wasn’t high — it was the CGI!

You see, it was Tony Stark himself who was supposed to play the hokey-magician-turned-savior-of-the-land, but RDJ sent director Sam Raimi’s bean-plants back soggy, and the Franco choice was made.

The selection is not entirely a poor one. Franco packs a wonderful enough screen presence and often has superb comic timing. There are definitely a few moments in this film that will make you clap. There are plenty of others that make you just want to yell out “oh, cheese!” There are moments where you’re accepting (or throwing in the towel) that it’s James Franco doing James Franco.

But, we’d be on to something entirely different if we didn’t think that was the point.

Raimi does his best to capture the essence of anything we could imagine being pre-Dorothy. Even the 3D — which I hate nearly as much as the Los Angeles Lakers — was pretty good (despite Hollywood’s El Capitan theater having blur issues with the screen’s left-side; not Disney’s problem, however). Original Spider-Man director Raimi’s computer generated landscapes are certainly enchanting.

Oz also stars Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. Sorry.

Then yet, again unsurprising to most, Oz the Great and Powerful lacks the same memorable supporting characters — and performances — as The Wizard of Oz from 1939; but does offer an array of intriguing new ones, in addition to those munchkins and even more terribly-haunting flying monkeys!

It may take a while to get used to all those damn witches and their sniveling differences (they all looked splendid, but Michelle Williams, again to no surprise, was the best of the bunch), but at least we got Finley. And I don’t mean Chuck Finley — Raimi favorite, Bruce Campbell (“Burn Notice”), who also makes a cameo. Zack Braff’s Finley the talking monkey servant also serves as the audience’s streamline of humor, and is so adorably amusing and captivating that Oz is worth seeing just for him alone. Be thankful for those strong monkey moments too, because the sappy China Girl adventure and reveal of the “good” witch starts to shovel this flick into all-too-cutesy “Disney Movie” territory.

But, hey, people clapped at the end of the Oz screening, which has thus so far earned over $150 million worldwide after one weekend, so what the hell do I know.

Go bring yo’ kids.

3 (out of 5) bibles. Plenty of strong moments for a film you figure would be trash. Sure, it’s nothing like the original — remakes/prequels never are (hi Star Wars! hello Prometheus) — but there’s enough to like here to make you appreciate Raimi’s direction. There’s also enough easter egg odes to the original without overdoing it. The conversational acting could’ve been a lot better, as even small children will find the flaws of both Franco and Kunis’ connection. The ending is actually brilliant, making up for a poor beginning. Finley!!

 

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