Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (Rhoades)

Disney Is Behind the Curtain of
“Oz the Great and Powerful”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The name of the movie may be “Oz the Great and Powerful,” but the title could be describing Walt Disney Pictures, the studio that’s releasing this self-described prequel to the beloved 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”
Disney always wanted to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City (read: the jewels of box-office receipts)
Back in 1937, following ol’ Walt’s successful release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he’d planned to produce an animated film based on the first of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, but Baum’s estate sold the film rights to others, resulting in the aforementioned Judy Garland masterpiece.
But ol’ Walt was patient and when the film rights to Baum’s remaining thirteen Oz books came up for sale in 1956, he grabbed them -- using the stories mainly for his television show.
Now -- probably with the cryogenic blessings of the late Walt Disney -- the great and powerful company is going to tell us the story of the Mighty Oz himself, that man behind the curtain, a humbug named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs. Turns out, the Wizard was an ordinary guy from Omaha, Nebraska, a circus magician who used a bag of elaborate tricks and props to make himself seem “great and powerful.”
In “Oz the Great and Powerful,” Oscar is played by the ubiquitous James Franco. Disney execs had originally wanted Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp for the role, but settled for Franco. (Director Sam Rami had worked with him on the “Spider-Man” movies.)
The new Disney extravaganza is currently making its 3-D magic at the Tropic Cinema.
Filming a prequel that explains how Oz (read: Oscar Zoroaster) came to rule the Emerald City was not an easy task. MGM controls all the character likenesses (down to the mole on the witch’s chin) and iconic elements (like the ruby slippers) so Disney’s legal department ran up lots of billable hours trying to devise workarounds. For instance, instead of the witches in this movie having green skin, the legal beagles came up with an entirely different color called “theostein” -- which merely looks green.
In addition to James Franco as Oz, we have Mila Kunis as Theodora, Michelle Williams as Glinda, and Rachel Weisz as Evanora. A magical lineup, as studio flacks might say.
Will “Oz the Great and Powerful” be ranked alongside the 1939 original (considered by the American Film Institute as the 10th Greatest Film Ever Made)? Not likely. But will you enjoy this return to somewhere over the rainbow? Yes, even without Dorothy and Toto.

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