Despite trying to re-ignite the magic past generations had with timeless classic The Wizard of Oz – this prequel lacks the heart of the original.
Despite his Oscar-nominated turn in 127 Hours and lead role in box-office smash The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which to be fair, was owned by the primates) James Franco isn’t yet a strong enough leading man for a blockbuster of this magnitude.
Disney have undoubtedly tried to replicate the massive success of Alice in Wonderland from three years ago, but that had Johnny Depp, and despite an admirable effort Franco struggles to convince as small-time circus magician Oscar Diggs.
But when he’s thrust from dusty Kansas into the fantastical land of Oz – just like Judy Garland’s character Dorothy in the 1939 film – he’s mistaken as the wizardous saviour to its harmless inhabitants, who are ruled by the Wicked Witch.
Oscar though is more concerned about the riches he’ll inherit as the supposed heir to the throne – although three witches who take him under their wing, Theordora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), still need convincing.
And they’re not the only ones who need convincing, as Weisz and a cackling-Kunis (who I’m a big fan of) battle hard with the generic script that does nothing for their talents.
Only Williams (who to be fair has a by-the-numbers sweet princess-like role) and Zach Braff (Scrubs), who brilliantly voices computer-generated winged-monkey Finley, really come away from the production unscathed.
It’s pay-off isn’t bad, it does have a throwback black-and-white opening like the original, and some of the scenery is simply luscious – but it somehow plays out in such a disjointed fashion that it ends up as a pretty joyless experience.
It’s not short at more than two hours – which will leave kids a little fidgety – and acclaimed Evil Dead director Sam Raimi doesn’t seem to have learned from his last major blockbuster debacle Spider-man 3.
Even though this will ignite a new franchise – after it’s $80million opening weekend in the States – it isn’t great or powerful enough to linger in the memory for too long.
If you want a magical journey down the ‘yellow brick road’ – buy a copy of the Garland original.
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Tony Cox, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Bruce Campbell
Running Time: 2hrs 5mins
Director: Sam Raimi [youtube id=”yyywumlnhdw” width=”600″ height=”350″]