How does a movie studio update one of filmdom’s most beloved classics—especially one it doesn’t own?
That’s the case however with OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL which, of course, is Disney’s new prequel to MGM’s great 1939 original—now owned by Warner Brothers.
For one Disney assigned the project to director Sam Raimi. But make no mistake, this is an original story as copyright lawyer Bonnie Eskenazi recently told the New York Times.
“Lifting from The Wizard Of Oz, a tantalizing notion given its continuous popularity, was strictly forbidden….and Warner is almost as well known as Disney for aggressively policing its copyrights.”
That should explain the slight differences in your expectations for the new movie.
Having said that, Disney’s new film is – in their own words – Fantastical and based on various L. Frank Baum‘s writings.
OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL reimagines the origins of the Wizard of Oz and just like in the original, opens with a black and white square picture prologue on screen, then blossoms into a full color visual experience of eye-popping proportions.
Here Oscar Diggs (James Franco) better known as Oz is a fast talking circus magician and operator. A flimflam kinda guy with dubious ethics who gets wisked away from his latest Kansas stop by a twister to the vibrant land of Oz.
And this time he thinks he’s hit pay dirt.
There he meets witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) who thinks he’s the prophesied new wizard everyone is expecting. And once Oz sees the fabulous treasures that would be his, he’s on board.
There’s still a bit of convincing to do. Like the residents of Emerald City AND Theodora’s two sisters: Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams.) One’s good. One’s bad. And Theodora is undecided.
So it goes. Illusions, ingenuity and a touch of wizardry as Oz transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but a better man as well.
“I might not be the wizard you expected, but I’m the wizard you need.”
Add to that a winged monkey at Oz’s side, munchkins and a spectacular color-blazing landscape filmed in top-notch 3-D and I’m convinced Walt Disney has the first major box office blockbuster of 2013.
Ladies and gentlemen it’s showtime as OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL raises 3-1/2 out of 5 fingers for all ages.
(Reviewed 3/5/13 at Extreme Screen Theatre At Union Station, Kansas City.)
JACK GOES TO THE MOVIES: Friday mornings at 6:40 a.m. on KMBZ Am & Fm / Also anytime on Time-Warner Cable’s K.C. ON DEMAND, Channel 411 / And throughout Nebraska on NEBRASKA ON DEMAND.