It is March and there is a blockbuster out, it must belong to Disney. After a string of either critical or box office misses, is Oz the Great and Powerful the slam dunk Disney so desire or will they have to wait another year?
In 2010 Disney released Alice in Wonderland, following the path built by Avatar the film was huge success. It raked in over 1 billion at the international box office and was an instance hit with child. However the reception from critics and the aftermath have no being kind, with Burton’s career down spiraling and Depp no longer the bullet proof star he was. Disney then followed this with massive March flops Mars Needs Moms and John Carter. For 2013 Disney needed a wizard to come in and steady the blockbuster ship.
With a host of fresh faces, an epic story everybody knows and one of Hollywood’s most consistent directors, Oz the Great and Powerful looks like a safe bet from the outside. The film follows Oz, a small-time Kansas conman who performs cheeky magic tricks to earn a living. During a freak storm Oz is whisked away to a magical realm called, well, Oz. He goes on a journey of self-discovery as he tries to save this bright and colourful world from the Wicked Witch and in turn become the Wizard of Oz.
Anybody familiar with the story of Oz knows where this is heading. Prequels by nature are anti-climactic and this is no different, lowering your expectations will always help when going into a film like this. But really the story isn’t that important here, this film is for kids and it is aimed squarely at them. With big special effects and hammy performances, there is no way children won’t love it.
James Franco leads an impressive cast. Franco has his detractors, but I personally am a fan. A man capable of almost anything and game to try absolutely everything, he is bursting with talent and fits the role of Oz like a glove. Williams is also impressive, perhaps the best, she is stunning and essentially the heart and soul of the film. Weisz plays evil so naturally now and is great in her role. It is only Kunis that lets down proceedings; she is unable to play a villain and is about as scary as a sock.
You need to know that the film calls for hammy acting and the cast delivers. The film mixes old school storytelling with modern special effects, the way they achieve this is through camp characters and dialogue. Add this to the bright and over the top visuals and you have a sugarfest. It will prove too much for some, it constantly feels like a cool drink commercial and at 130 minutes the film is a sensory overload.
I fit into this boat and after about an hour I was really struggling, like any sugar rush when you hit the peak you just want to crash. That is how I felt during Oz. It would have been perfect to pause and continue afterwards. In one sitting this will keep children constantly entertained but for adults this will be too much, with the film providing very little actual substance and just going for gags, action and a couple of scares.
Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t a miss nor is it the great slam dunk Disney would have hoped for. With middle of the road reviews and only modest box office (it likely won’t turn a profit in its cinema run, needing $600 million world-wide to do so), Disney will be pleased with the results but not ecstatic. Perhaps next March with the Muppet sequel Disney will get what they so desperately want.
2.5 out of 5.0