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Opening: Oz the Great and Powerful

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Neither great nor powerful, Sam Raimi’s (Evil Dead, Spider-Man) film about the Wizard of Oz is as much a remake as it is a prequel. And it ultimately succeeds on neither count. James Franco hams it up as Oscar “Oz” Diggs, a Kansas carnival magician who gets in a bit of trouble after seducing the strong man’s girlfriend. In order to escape he hijacks a hot air balloon and winds up in the world of Oz. Much like the original film, Oz the Great and Powerful begins in black and white before Oz is transported to a world of brilliantly bright colors and exotic wildlife (all of which looks quite tremendous in 3-D). He initially meets two beautiful witches — Theodora (Mila Kunis) and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) — and is originally smitten before the beautiful Glinda (Michelle Williams) tells him that they’re no good and he must take on the role of a wizard in order to save the kingdom of Oz. While Raimi undoubtedly intended the film’s stilted dialogue to mimic the original film’s script, Franco struggles to make Oz seem like something more than a spaced out stoner. In fact, all the best laughs go to the smart aleck Finley the Flying Monkey, who’s voiced by Zach Braff. Raimi does a decent job of making his story consistent with the 1939 classic; he just fails to provide a compelling reason for the $200 million makeover.

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