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There’s no place like “Oz”

Maddie Daly | Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Step aside, Dorothy. The 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” has been twisted and rewound for the recently-released Disney film “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Instead of following the beloved gingham-wearing homesick girl down the yellow brick road, this story focuses on the wizard himself, showing how he got to Oz in the first place. Taking the same form as the classic film, the new version of “Oz” starts out in black and white and transitions into color as the characters arrive in the Land of Oz. Also, just like Dorothy associates characters in Oz with real-life family members, having actors play dual roles such as the lion and Zeke, so too does the wizard see familiar yet transformed faces in Oz. With cameo appearances by the flying monkeys, a lion, a tornado, munchkins and, of course, the witches, this film kept the standard details while creating an entire back story to Dorothy’s adventure.  

The storyline attempts to explain why in the original film the so-called Wizard of Oz is hiding behind a curtain, manipulating the crowd rather than performing real magic. With James Franco as a young Wizard of Oz, the new film goes back to Kansas in 1905 when a tornado takes not Dorothy but Oscar (otherwise known as Oz) to the Land of Oz where he is mistaken for a prophet-like savior, someone who was meant to rescue the land from the power of the bad witches. Franco uses his charm and charisma to work his way up to the top and assume the position of wizard, meeting several interesting characters along the way just as Dorothy did.  

Stepping out of her typical role of the sought-after girl in R-rated rom-coms, Mila Kunis is Oz’s sidekick for much of the film, playing the role of Theodora, otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the West. She looks surprisingly normal and even innocent in the beginning of the 2013 film, wearing an oversized red hat and her big brown eyes resembling a naïve puppy’s rather than an evil sorcerer’s. However, as the film continues, Kunis’ character becomes more and more like the green-skinned witch in the 1939 classic.  

Starring as Glinda the Good Witch, Michelle Williams doubles as the character Annie in the black-and-white beginning of the film. With a desire to fight evil and the ability to travel in bubbles, Williams’ character is nearly identical to the original film’s Glinda, played by Billie Burke. Disney did decide to modernize the wardrobe, however, removing the pink glittery tulle and going with an almost medieval-looking silver dress accompanied by a fairly simple tiara and wand.       

Regardless of the differences between this film and its predecessor, the acting and scenery is worth experiencing, whether or not the storyline is up to par. Maybe I’m biased from years of watching and singing along with Judy Garland in the original, but I do not think this film’s plot lives up to its name. The storyline was confusing, especially for a film targeted towards a very young audience. Aesthetically, the film is a success. The colors and costumes provide a beautiful backdrop for not-so-exciting action.

When I first heard about the possibility of a sequel/prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” I was obviously counting down the days until the release date, what with having been Dorothy for at least three Halloweens and having played a munchkin in a middle school production of “Oz.” (Don’t ask me why my soon-to-be six-foot-tall self got cast as someone supposedly three-feet tall.) Overall, I was disappointed in the storyline, left wanting more at the end but knowing I could always pop my 15-year-old tape into a dusty VCR, watch Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and be completely satisfied with the story of Oz. 

2 Shamrocks of 5

Contact Maddie Daly at mdaly6@nd.edu