** (out of four)
If “Oz the Great and Powerful” only had a brain. And heart. And courage.
Even then it’d still have
It’s like casting
In the uninspired story co-written by the guys behind the zero-star “Rise of the Guardians” and the straight-to-video “Into the Blue 2: The Reef,” Oscar is a commitment-phobic circus magician who uses illusions to wow crowds and seduce women in 1905 Kansas. He's quickly out of his depth when he evades an angry strongman via balloon—presumably a common method of escape in those days—and, like Dorothy once did, lands in a colorful wonderland where the beautiful Theodora (Franco's “Date Night” co-star Mila Kunis) assumes he's the wizard whose day-saving arrival the king prophesied. When a woman like that offers her heart and gold, you can't blame a guy for stretching the truth.
Because Franco never layers Oscar with the necessary goodness or pizzazz, this grinch just seems like a deceitful jerk unlikely to rescue the innocent people of Oz or earn their faith. Contrasted against a luminous turn from Michelle Williams as Glinda and a nicely sinister performance by
And did we need a story in which the man who would be the Wiz puts a sock on his doorknob to indicate a hook-up or saves a tiny china doll (voiced by
Right, those 3-D visuals: Spears and other items pop out of the screen, and certain tricks achieve the intended wonder. Zach Braff voices Finley, Oscar's sweet, loyal monkey friend and the film's breakout character.
The 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” the most celebrated L. Frank Baum adaptation, recognizes the value of a worshiped leader reassuring the people. “Powerful” delivers only broad hope, ignoring whether truth could be just as uplifting. Even though, like a documentary about David Blaine's childhood (I assume), most of this two-hour-plus misadventure consists of constant reminders that Oscar is no great shakes. It’s time spent on the wrong side of the curtain.
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