'Oz the Great and Powerful' Review: Cruel and Unusual Punishment For Your Kids


Some apologists for Oz the Great and Powerful will try to claim that, for all its flaws, the film is still a visual treat. Pay no heed to those soothsayers. This movie attempts to pass itself off as eye candy with the laziest approach possible to photography, that is, throw every color of the visible spectrum on the screen at the same time in the hopes that maybe some of them will pair up nicely together.

If you gave out that sort of eye candy on Eye Halloween you'd get yourself egged by all the eyes in the neighborhood.

Yes, Oz the Great and Powerful: finally a movie made for three-year-olds, by three-year-olds. For those in need of a two-hour smoke break from the tykes, I highly recommend it. Though, if you have any heart, you'll buy your kid a prolonged ride on the mechanical winged rhino outside the Kmart instead.

I'd suggest you could make them watch the movie as a form of discipline, but I'm pretty sure that would violate the 8th Amendment clause against “cruel and unusual punishment” from the Bill of Rights.

It started off okay, mind. The movie's premise is that it's ort of a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and tells of how the wizard ended up in the land of Oz in the first place. The first act is a throwback to the Judy Garland classic, a foreshadowing of events to come told in black-and-white, where we follow Oz (James Franco), the titular character and carnival magician, through one of his routine magic shows and get to know his personality traits and his flaws — namely, that he's a egocentric chauvinist with a good heart. So far, so good. This first half-hour really does have a charming allure, with the monochromatic vintage feel being enhanced by a 3:4 screen display. Kudos to Sam Raimi for so faithfully replicating the movies of the time, nailing everything from the shots to the dialogue and the acting.

When Oz is forced to escape the carnival on a hot-air balloon after being confronted by a strongman aggrieved at the protagonist's advances on his girl, he is met in the air by a violent tornado and, as is procedural with tornadoes, is sent to the magic land of Oz, which was called that before he himself took the name, which makes everyone there believe he's the chosen one to save them from an impending danger – instead of suing him for breaching their patent. That lack of financial foresight is symptomatic of a persistent trait of gullibility among the Oz-landers.

Throughout his travels in Oz, the wizard is met with several characters, the most important of them being three witches: The “Good” Witch (Michelle Williams), The “Evil” Witch (Rachel Weisz), and, like, the “Okay” Witch (Mila Kunis), for lack of a better epithet. He also comes across several other ancillary personages, all of whom are the all-time shoo-ins for the annual “Fat Cow Drinking A Pail of Milk of Magnesium” Award for “most BS characters that could be left on the cutting room floor and not even the janitor would notice them.”

Now, the original Wizard of Oz is regarded as one of the finest examples of structure and storytelling in the recent history of cinema. Pick up any book on screenwriting you can find and odds are that you will come across a fairly in-depth analysis of that movie at some point, because the character beats and narrative are almost academic in their sheer precision in the context of the whole, and any writer worth his salt will need to study them if he wants to make it anywhere.

Oz the Great and Powerful, in contrast, is a movie that regards structure and storytelling with the same reverence that we give to safely removing the USB device in our day-to-day lives: it's apparently important, but we don't really know why. It has the pacing of a school pageant, and the dialogue isn't half as good. The thing looks more like a sequence of loosely-related SNL sketches, without the jokes to make the format relevant.

Oz himself reminds me of Beavis and Butthead or a guy who's been on a three-night jagerbomber binge. When faced with the magnitude of the surreal land that bears his name, his brain isn't prepared to process the significance of his surroundings, so it clings to the only things it can aptly comprehend at the moment, which is the available gash. I'm not kidding when I say that the first thing the protagonist does in Oz is not to marvel at the novelty of such a magical place, but to make a move on the first girl he comes across, which happens to be the Okay Witch.

And all throughout their journey to the emerald city, he does little more than trying to get up in that ass, only registering a small fraction of his purpose there after he's promised a ton of gold when he's crowned king.

It came to a point in the movie where the only thing that kept me going was the promise of seeing more Mila Kunis — who, in a weird stroke of chance, looks remarkably close to the type of girl that I'd want to have sleep with — sashaying about, but eventually the whole thing became so dreary that not even that could hold me onto my seat.

“Screw it,” I declared, “I have Google Images at home, I can get my share of Mila without putting up with this garbled mess,” so I left. Yes, I didn't finish the movie.

It doesn't really matter because there was absolutely nothing the film could do to redeem itself by that point short of an all-out hardcore porn sequence involving every character — including the flying bell-hop monkey. But I have a gut feeling that that didn't happen, so I'm not regretful.

So, should you watch Oz the Great and Powerful? Only if you've ever done something really bad to me.