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The return to Oz looks gorgeous... if it only had a heart
by Paul Gonzales
Mar 14, 2013 | 2523 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE — Most people don’t realize that there was an actual sequel to the original 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” titled “Return to Oz” which was released in 1985.

“Return” didn’t hold a candle to the original but did offer some insights to the actual land of Oz, including new characters that are included in to the books.

Actually, the sequel is a lot closer to the books than the original, albeit way darker and even a tad scary.

That being said, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a prequel to the original film staring Judy Garland.

And it starts out in sepia tone like the original in a smaller screen ratio as we’re introduced to James Franco as Oz.

He’s a womanizing illusionist and magician, who’s working in a flailing traveling circus and is quite good but still feels like a fraud because all he does are tricks.

We’re also introduced to his true love, Annie, who will eventually become Dorothy’s aunt in “The Wizard of Oz.” She’s getting married, and now Oz has nothing left in Kansas anymore.

So, being caught in the act of cheating with the circus strongman’s girl, he flees in a hot air balloon only to get caught in a tornado.

He soon finds himself in the land of Oz as the screen turns into widescreen format and color.

The most interesting part of the film I found was getting the chance to see so much more of the land. But it was also very fake computer generated imagery akin to Time Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which I didn’t quite understand.

In the original, they used matte paintings to make the backgrounds look real. And the opposite was done here. And with a budget over $200 million, it’s a puzzling concept.

But, nevertheless, we’re introduced to the main characters in the film – the witches. Mila Kunis plays Theodora; Rachel Weisz plays Evanora, and Michelle Williams plays Glinda as well as Annie in the beginning.

And that’s where my problems with the movie begin.

Going into this, you should already know that Glinda is the good witch, which leaves the other two to become the Wicked Witch of the East (the one that Dorothy’s house falls on) and the Wicked Witch of the West.

I’ll let you figure out who becomes who.

But the movie spends so much unnecessary time connecting the dots to the original that, eventually, I stopped caring. I mean, I went to see the story of the Wizard of Oz, not how the two movies were connected.

Yet, there’s so much that doesn’t quite connect anyway. The flying monkeys are baboons in this one. But there is one flying monkey that’s a doorman, er, doormonkey that befriends Oz and accompanies him on his journey. And why is he good? Because he’s a chimpanzee and not a baboon?

And Oz eventually falls in love with Glinda the Good Witch, but at the end of “The Wizard of Oz,” Oz sure hightails it in a hot air balloon pretty quick. Did Oz and Glinda break up in between the two films?

And the biggest one is: Where are all the munchkins? There’s a servant munchkin and some that stand on each other’s shoulders and make clothes, but everyone in Munchkin Land is a regular person.

Maybe the munchkins will rebel against the humans like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and will eventually come to rule munchkin land.

And once the Wicked Witch of the West appears, it’s pretty laughable. Well, I laughed anyway. The actress who plays her in this one disgraces Margaret Hamilton’s original performance.

The plot gets muddled pretty quick, and soon, the talk of prophecies and wizards and magic becomes a bore.

If Oz isn’t a real wizard, then how hard would it be for one of the witches to zap him with green electricity and off him right then and there?

Overall, the film’s enjoyable. It has laughs and some action and adventure. And, as I mentioned earlier, we get to wander further down the yellow brick road and take some new and interesting turns.

Almost everyone in the film does seem miscast, though. James Franco does a decent job, but the part of Oz was originally intended for Robert Downey Jr. Then, after he passed, Johnny Depp. Those two actors would’ve added so much more to the character than Franco ever could.

The only witch I thought did an excellent job was Glinda. Casting Williams’ was perfect.

The film’s climax is the best part of the film and almost makes the wait worth it. Almost.

Audiences that have been waiting to take another trip to Oz won’t be disappointed in the least. But those of us who want a more wholehearted approach to a classic work of fiction will be left out hanging in the cornfield like a scarecrow.

Or rusted in the woods wishing for an oil can.

Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.
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