A director with a distinctive visual style brought in by Disney to tell a story directly related to a much-loved classic, featuring a fantastic cast, lavishly colourful sets and a whole lot of 3D. Yes, the comparisons to 2010’s hugely popular but critically lashed Alice In Wonderland are there to be made, but thankfully Oz: The Great & Powerful is nowhere near as bad as that movie. Sadly though, considering the calibre of the names involved, it’s also nowhere near as good as it should’ve been.
Oscar (James Franco) is a small-time magician who uses his smoke and mirrors trickery to his advantage with the local ladies. Upon getting involved with the wrong woman, he tries to make a quick getaway in a hot air balloon, which gets sucked up by a tornado. Crash-landing in the weird and wonderful Oz, he soon runs into the beautiful witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who informs him that he is part of a prophecy that will restore peace to their world. Theodora and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) explain that in order to become King of Oz he must kill The Wicked Witch (who they lead him to believe is Glinda (Michelle Williams) who’s been wreaking havoc ever since killing their father, the previous ruler of Oz.
So off he sets down the yellow brick road, picking up accomplices like Finley The Flying Monkey (voiced by Scrubs’ Zack Braff) and a little girl made out of china - China Girl - both of which are fine, but hardly equal to the likes of the Tin Man or Scarecrow from the original. The plot jots along, never once sitting still long enough to allow boredom to set in. Throughout, you can take in the visually arresting camerawork from director Sam Raimi, who enjoys referencing some of his back-catalogue like The Evil Dead and Drag Me To Hell.
At times it can feel like you’re watching a 130 minute special effects show-reel, with certain performances revelling in a complete lack of subtlety - Franco and Kunis, we’re looking at you. Kids will most likely love it, but accompanying parents may be left wanting. Much like Oscar himself, there’s a lot of razzle dazzle here to get your attention, but not much going on to keep it.