L. Frank Baum published his beloved novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in 1900 and it almost immediately sold 15,000 copies. By 1902 the material had been adapted into a stage musical. Over the years the story has been presented in various formats with the most famous being the 1939 film of the same name as the novel. While in New York a few years ago I was fortunate to see the Broadway musical, Wicked, which is also based on Baum's book, but takes it in a different direction with emphasis on the witches.
Now another movie has been released which features some of the same characters from the original novel. Oz the Great and Powerful, is a prequel to the book and the 1939 film that basically tells the story of how a small-time carnival magician arrived in Oz, and it gives a good back story on the witches.
The new movie is constructed in much the same manner as the classic film of 1939. It opens in a black-and-white depiction of a hardscrabble carnival in rural Kansas at the turn of the twentieth century. Oscar Diggs (known to his friends as "Oz"), has a penchant for the ladies. While being pursued by an angry husband, Oscar hops abroad a hot-air balloon of which he is part-owner. As Oscar makes his way into the freedom of the skies, he suddenly turns and faces his future - which is coming right at him in the form of a Kansas cyclone.
The magician and his balloon are predictably blown somewhere over the rainbow to the gloriously colorful land of Oz, a place where the people (farmers, tinkers, and munchkins) have been awaiting the prophesied arrival of a wizard who will deliver them into good times. There, as his adventure unfolds, Oscar (now known as "Oz") has to deal with river faeries (think Tinkerbell with very sharp teeth) and three witches: a good witch, a bad witch, and a good witch who turns into a bad witch. As Oz struggles to deliver the land from the control of the bad witches, he discovers that he has the ability to care (a heart), to plan strategy (a brain), and to fight (courage),
My sister and I saw this movie yesterday, on Easter Sunday. We both enjoyed the film. There were a couple of spots where I felt that the writing was weak, but without Tim Macy to juice it up, the script was what it was. James Franco turned in a fine performance in the title role, and Mila Kunis was mesmerizing as Theodora, the good witch who bites into a bad apple and becomes cacklingly evil. Zack Braff was also very entertaining as Franklin, a flying monkey.
Oz the Great and Powerful brings excitement and fun to the big screen - and it tells a good story. The film is rated PG, and it is one that the whole family can and will enjoy.