March 7, 2013

Movie Preview: No place like Oz

And Disney, with ‘The Great and Powerful,’ is betting big bucks that audiences are ready to return to that magical place.

By STEVEN ZEITCHIK McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 2)

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Oscar Diggs (James Franco) and the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) travel the yellow brick road on their way to the Emerald City.

Disney photos

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Michelle Williams as Glinda, the Good Witch.

Additional Photos Below


"OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL," starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Zach Braff. Directed by Sam Raimi. Rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language. Running time: 2:10

But will "Great and Powerful" feel like the "The Wizard of Oz"?"

It's not a simple question.

FOR STARTERS, there is no Dorothy, and very few songs. There are some references to Fleming's movie -- Diggs calls an attacking lion a coward -- but they are deployed sparingly. In fact, Kapner's initial version contained more references, and Disney executives also pushed for more. But Raimi and Roth pushed back, wanting the film to stand on its own. (Williams said Raimi instructed the cast to "stay away from anything that was conspicuously related" to the MGM film.)

Unlike much of what's come before, there is also comedy. Franco plays his part with an arched eyebrow, tossing in under-his-breath references whose effect is heightened by Raimi's close-ups. "There are certain things you have to render to make it feel like Oz," he said. "But a more mature protagonist allows for a more knowing performance. I didn't want adults to have to feel like they had to go back to childhood to enjoy this."

This "Oz" also contains a yellow brick road and an Emerald City, but they come courtesy of some non-Ozian influences (Stromberg said he looked at "Metropolis") and are also unmistakably of a piece with current-day Disney confections. The monkeys fly at your head, the butterflies flap their colorful wings in front of your eyes, the waterfalls gush vertiginously.

"I like to push things, and I know I sometimes get criticized for that," Stromberg said. "But I want to be satisfied that whoever's buying a ticket goes on a visual journey."

This could provoke purists, who will say any "Oz" that puts such a premium on design ignores the story's soul. But Stromberg said skeptics should examine the history.

"If you really wanted to analyze the original 'Oz,' it's big backing painted with gumdrop hills. There's a really fabricated feel to everything. My question is 'Why is this any different?' "


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Additional Photos

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Oscar Diggs’ (James Franco) hot air balloon sails over the landscape of the Land of Oz.



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