Saturday, 30 March 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful, dir. Sam Raimi, scr. Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire, story by Mitchell Kapner, based on The Oz series by L. Frank Baum, st. James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff

The central hypothesis of Oz the Great and Powerful and to an extent 1939's The Wizard of Oz - that of initial egotistical showmanship and sham transformed and utilised for good, and then ultimately exposed - is a good deal more meaty a concept than the kid-friendly, technicolour wonderland and anaemic good vs. evil narrative served up here. Cinema is historically chock-full of accidental heroes and although the likes of Harry Potter has done heaps to illustrate to children that heroism has its sacrifices and tough calls, one feels that such out-and-out narcissism and duplicity displayed by a pre-wiz Oscar Diggs (Franco) would have served the film (and its audience) better had it been fully explored as a weightier character failing. But a kids film this is, and apart from some serious Raimian nachos-in-face scares, theres very little that offends or indeed engages. Mila Kunis as Theodora and later, Westerly-regioned witch, seems to be having the most fun of all, and fumes and cackles with appropriate gusto. Weisz as her sister Evanora lends a gravitas to what amounts to little more than a glorified pantomime villain, and Franco as the Derren Brownian Oz, is all too unendearingly smug. The highest grossing film of 2013 so far Oz the Great and Powerful may be, but one suspects there may be better things to come for kids in the shape of Despicable Me 2, Dreamworks' Turbo and Pixar's Planes.