CINEMA: The Wizard Of Blahs


SALON:  Sam Raimi’s gazillion-dollar prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” features gorgeous production design – liberally quoting and pilfering from the beloved 1939 original – dazzling costumes (many of them draped on Rachel Weisz) and explosive, imaginative special effects. You can feel its good intentions, even when Michelle Williams isn’t on screen, glowing with the ethereal, saintly blondness of Glinda the Good Witch. Raimi and his collaborators have made an honest effort to capture the family-movie spirit of old Hollywood, while updating the action and humor to more contemporary standards. But saying that Raimi’s trip to Oz is adequate eye candy with a good heart isn’t the same thing as saying it’s actually good. I was charmed at some moments, profoundly bored by others and almost never felt genuinely excited or emotionally engaged. A lumbering, bloated spectacle with a weak script and a flat, awkward central performance by James Franco, “Oz the Great and Powerful” feels like a hybrid of “Avatar” and “John Carter,” meaning that it’s increasingly unclear what the point of the movie is, except to look great and make money. If it’s nostalgic for something, it doesn’t really know what, or why: The production values of 1939? The dire social and economic context of 1939? The unsophisticated and supposedly innocent fantasy universe of L. Frank Baum? […] The things I remember about this movie the morning after seeing it are all about its references to that other movie. The whole audience went “Oh!” when we saw the note-perfect painted backdrop for the Emerald City, and it’s impossible not to smile at the precise recreation of the cornfield, the Yellow Brick Road and the split-rail fence where Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man will dance, sometime in the future of Oz. As for what actually happens along that road in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” that’s not half as memorable. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Can the major studios still make magic? From the looks of “Oz the Great and Powerful,” a dispiriting, infuriating jumble of big money, small ideas and ugly visuals, the answer seems to be no — unless, perhaps, the man behind the curtain is Martin Scorsese or James Cameron. The Walt Disney Company is the studio lurking behind “Oz,” and, as usual, it is banking that it can leverage this 3-D prehistory of the Wizard of Oz (James Franco) for its wonderful world of cross-promotional marketing and ancillary revenue streams. With so much riding on this “Oz” it’s a surprise that the results are so uninspired — or given Disney’s recent run with the likes of “Alice in Wonderland,” maybe not. MORE

MIAMI HERALD: The saddest part about the film’s failure is that Raimi made his first movie, 1981’s “The Evil Dead,” with practically no money, using ingenuity and resourcefulness to create a horror classic that spawned two sequels (and has now been remade). Even his “Spider-Man” trilogy, although heavy on special effects, always kept the characters at the forefront. In “Oz the Great and Powerful,” which cost a reported $200 million, Raimi forgets everything that made his best movies work (“A Simple Plan,” “Drag Me to Hell,” “The Gift,” “Army of Darkness”) and has made a lifeless cartoon that’s all flash, no heart. MORE