Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size


film ozDespite dubious plotting, Disney's 'Oz' a mostly entertaining trip

How did the Witch of the West get so wicked? If you know Gregory Maguire's novel, “Wicked,” or the stage musical, you know one version of the story of the magical land of Oz before Dorothy touched down in her flying house. And now that the Disney corporation is buying up the rights to every fantasy property ever conceived (from the Pixar animation studio to the Star Wars universe), it's offering its own take on the material in the lavish Oz the Great and Powerful, which imagines the witches and the wizard of Oz in their heedless youth.

Directed by Sam Raimi from a script by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, the film is a prequel to L. Frank Baum's classic novel, and the beloved 1939 MGM movie. The mood and texture of Raimi's film, along with the extravagant production design by Robert Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland; Avatar) are heavily influenced by the earlier Oz film. Despite some slow-going in the script, some dubious plotting, and an unresolved strain of moral ambiguity, the cheeky dash of Raimi's film, and its obvious affection for its source, makes for a mostly entertaining trip down the yellow brick road.

Once again, we begin in drab, black-and-white Kansas, circa 1905. Oscar Diggs, called "Oz" (James Franco), is a stage magician in a cheesy traveling carnival. His tricks are all flash powder and illusion, but he delivers the thrills onstage; more fraudulent are his cavalier seductions of women, while his brusque treatment of his assistant (Zach Braff) suggests a mean streak. Being "good" doesn't interest Oz as much as his hopes to one day do something great.

On the day the carnival strongman comes after him for dallying with his wife, Oz flees in a hot air balloon that's immediately sucked up into a twister. The storm sets him down in a fantastical, vibrantly colored landscape in a land also called Oz. He's greeted by the lovely witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who hails him as the "great wizard," foretold in a prophecy, "with the name of our land" (what's the connection? Who knows?), who will "save our people."

Ever one to seize an opportunity, Oz plays along. The next morning, the smitten Theodora takes him into the Emerald City, where she rules with her equally ravishing sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), also a witch. The sisters are mourning the death of their father, a great wizard and the previous king. After promising Oz he'll be the next king (and showing him the vast, sparkling treasure room where he frolics like Uncle Scrooge in his Money Bin), they send him on a mission to kill yet a third witch, who they blame for murdering their father. But their target turns out to be blonde, radiant Glinda (Michelle Williams), and the plot thickens.

Like Dorothy, Oz picks up sidekicks, but it doesn't make as much sense that they're based on characters in the Kansas scenes, since Oz's story is not meant to be a dream. So we get a  wisecracking winged monkey with Braff's voice. (In this version, the evil witch's minions are ferocious bat-winged baboons.) A little live, broken china doll that Oz repairs with glue is the wheelchair-bound girl his "magic" couldn't heal at the carnival. Even Glinda is the image of the one woman Oz really cared for.

The good versus great theme is hammered home a tad too often, and some long, talky stretches would require more than Franco's toothy grin to keep the audience invested. The various witches' powers tend to come and go at the whims of the plot (with Glinda often completely helpless). And while it's interesting that a woman scorned by the feckless Oz becomes the heartless, green-skinned Fury we all know as the Wicked Witch, he never has to atone for it in any satisfying way. He may go over the rainbow, but his superficial character never takes enough of a journey.

Still, much is redeemed in the finale; instead of the expected bloody battle, Oz employs all the various non-warrior peoples of the land to build massive stage illusions to drive out the evildoers. There's a fun steampunk feel to the creation and manipulation of these devices. Raimi's consciously multiculturized denizens of Oz, and clever homages (like a distant field full of Horses of a Different Color in one scene), help make this is a good, if not great Oz adventure. 
film oz
Oz the Great and Powerful

★★★(out of four)

Watch film trailer >>>
With James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams.
Written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Sam Raimi.
A Walt Disney Pictures release. Rated PG. 130 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.


Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.


Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >


Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments


Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.


How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management


Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.


Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?