1939 still resonates as one of the most iconic year’s in film history; films that to this day are watched and relished consistently: “Gunga Din”, “Goodbye Mr. Chips”, “Stagecoach”, “Dark Victory”, “Wuthering Heights”, and my two favorites, “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz”. So it was with massive trepidation that I went to see “Oz: The Great and Powerful”; a prequel to “Dorothy’s” fantastical jaunt down the yellow- brick -road. Amazingly, I found it quite wonderful, enchanting, a visual romp through an imaginary landscape filled with flying monkeys, beautiful witches masking heinous trickery, and one whose powers shimmer with godliness. It was glorious entertainment; fun, from commencement to conclusion.
James Franco as “Oscar Diggs”( “Wizard”) is the magician behind the stunning success of the film; devious charm and self-depreciation imbue the charlatan, magic-man, his mesmerizing likability; paltry, flimsy tricks are gleefully cast off as he struggles with the expectations the populace demands of the “Wizard”. Franco’s chimerical, irresistible magnetism imbues the “Wizard” with all the ingenuity required to save the citizens of Oz. His lionization of Thomas Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park”; inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, microphone; envisioning a future where mass production eases the lives of millions; a lavish acknowledgment of one man’s soaring, fertile capabilities.
Evil witches: “Theodora” (Mila Kunis) and “Evanora” (Rachel Weisz) are delightfully devious, rich with maximum, malevolent villainy, terrifying their subjects; and “Glinda” (Michelle Phillips) has enough syrupy sweetness to ameliorate their venomous behavior. But is is “Finley” (Zach Braff), a flying monkey, dressed as a Bellboy who seizes our emotions, and “China Doll” (Joey King ) our hearts.
“Oz: The Great and Powerful” gifts audiences, something sorely absent in movies today: laughter, joy and long after leaving, the glow of jubilance, merriment, happiness.