Oz, the Con Man, the Cheesy Grin and his Monkey Friend.
There! I've renamed the movie.
I was never a big fan of the original The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But I became a fan when I saw Wicked (the Broadway musical), Tim Burton's Alice and Charlie, and Zooey Deschanel's Tin Man, which was on the Sci Fi channel in 2007.
I like the originals enough to give the modern versions a go. I prefer the modern versions, only if they were done right. Each of the above example has successfully put their own spin on the story. I like them because I am more connected to them. Whereas the originals were always way too 'Disney' to me and they were seen as 'children movies', but I love the adult elements -- darkness, depth and struggle -- in the modern versions. Mums and dads would say today's children movies are sometimes a bit too dark for kids. But I love it. Make them cry!
As a die hard fan of Wicked, I have been waiting for the movie to come out since the news surfaced a few years ago. I shouldn't like Oz, the Great and the Powerful at all! You get in the way, Oz! Now, we have to wait for a few years for another Wizard of Oz movie. Knowing it is NOT Wicked, I prepared myself for Oz. I enjoyed it, but not loved it.
What worked? The visuals were magical. Zach Braff (aka Finley) was pretty much the highlight for me. I could watch the whole movie with him in it and China Girl. They could probably do a mash-up movie with Seth MacFarlane's TED in a musical format. Now, that!! That idea right there would totally work for me! If you are creating something, you may as well go all the way, don't go half in, half out.
What didn't work? I am not sure if this movie has a good script to start with. I am not sure about the casting choices. The dialogues were meh. The whole time I was waiting for this bad-ass epic spine-chilling moment, but it never happened. At times, the feel of the movie was way too 'Disney' for me. James Franco didn't work for me at all. I don't think he was the right actor for this role. He did ok with the comedic moments. The cheesy grin worked in some scenes but not all. The heart wrenching moments were not totally genuine. I think as a 'con man', Oz was not bad-ass enough. He was supposed to be a total bad ass/ ass hole, it got to the point where you totally hate him, like Sawyer in Lost. After you completely hate the character, the story would then reveal why he became the man that he was. And then you see his journey of self discovery and change. You would begin to may be like the guy or feel sorry for him. I think Oz could be written as a bad-ass a lot more. The writing and the construct of this version of Oz were too conservative and too 'Disney'. Con man = Sawyer. OK?!
What about the ladies? They were ok. I like the transformation of Mila Kunis's Theodora. I love the green girl, but this isn't the green girl we met in Wicked. Rachel Weisz's Evanora was ok, but she was only channeling the Disney-accepted evil. I've seen Michelle Williams in better roles, but her Glinda was alright. Wicked trained me to like the Wicked Witch more than the Good Witch. But I don't care so much about naming my favourite witch in this movie. Just give me more monkey scenes.
What's missing? The story, characters and dialogues were lacking wit, show power and identity. Wicked did so well with wit, darkness and friendship. Tin Man did well because Zooey Deschanel's performance made it enjoyable to watch. Alice and Charlie were Johnny Depp's one man show, that alone was awesome enough.
Oz, The Great and The Powerful should be popular with kids as it was done family friendly. But for a viewer like me who is looking for darkness and layers, this was ok. Like I said, the best thing in this movie was Zach Braff's Finley. But that's just me.
Let's Kickstart a mash-up musical movie with Finley, China Girl and TED right now!
Overall, I score Oz, The Great and The Powerful 6 out of 10.