I am a huge fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” MGM’s 1939 film. Face it, even if you do not like “The Wizard of Oz,” you have to admit it was a landmark film. How many 74+ year-old films can you name? I’ll grant you “Gone With the Wind” and “Casablanca,” and I’ll bet you will then say “The Wizard of Oz.” Few films live in our social psyche like “The Wizard of Oz” does. There have been several attempts to touch it, some resulting in failure as deep as Oz’s greatness.
“Oz, The Great and Powerful” is the most recent attempt to reach into the magic of that imaginary world, and the power of wonderful film making. Is it as great as its forebear? No, but it is still wonderfully entertaining. The story is not drawn directly from any L. Frank Baum “Oz” novel, but is an imagined prequel to the 1939 “The Wizard of Oz” movie. It explains not only how carnival huckster / magician Oscar Diggs becomes the Wizard of Oz, but it also explains the plight of the people of Oz as well as the rise of the witches.
The story is wonderful, with some nice explanations and some marvelous surprises. The script has a few spots that fall flat. A few more snips by the editor would have been nice, but overall, I cannot complain. All the actors do a fine job. As with the script, there are a few moments that feel more like exposition than lived lines, but the storyline quickly moves us past these low points. Danny Elfman’s score is wonderful and lush. The cinematography and digital landscapes hark back to the first time we all saw Oz.
If I have any real complaints, it is modern movie makers’ desire to inject romance into everything. This is a story that could have flown higher without it, or perhaps with a more subtle, half answered suggestion of it. Additionally, I totally object to Mariah Carey’s end credits song “Almost Home.” After all the wonderful and soothing orchestrations of Mr. Elfman, to be suddenly struck with a thumping bass and kick drum along with Mariah’s high end warble felt a bit like being chased by a screeching flying baboon.
Despite my complaints, I enjoyed the movie. It will not go down in history that way “The Wizard of Oz” has, but it just might survive as a footnote. Worth the ticket, especially for fans of “The Wizard of Oz.”