Disney’s latest live-action film, “Oz The Great and Powerful,” is neither great, nor powerful.
The film is visually stunning, but that’s the only strong pull keeping the audience invested until the end. The acting is mediocre and the story ends with a morally ambiguous message.
James Franco does the best acting job of the main cast. His jokes are well delivered, often sarcastic, but never over the top. He is convincing as the womanizing conman Oz because he doesn’t show much emotion beyond a flirtatious smile or vague surprise when a woman is scorned or her angry bodybuilding boyfriend comes back for revenge.
James Franco in “Oz: The Great And Powerful.” (Courtesy of Disney)
The three witches, however, are a different story when it comes to acting. Mila Kunis is introduced to Oz with an almost-believable naiveté as the never-before loved Theodora. When she finds out that she is just another prospect for Oz, she lets her temper take over her soul and becomes how we better know her, the Wicked Witch of the West. That is when all hope for Kunis’ acting is dashed. Kunis’ character, Jackie, in “That ‘70s Show” had the right amount of evil for Kunis to play. She was conniving, but never irate. The Wicked Witch of the West, however, is an angry woman prone to rage tantrums and Kunis doesn’t bring the wrath out in her character. Instead, she just seems like an annoying, disgruntled green woman who can’t talk any other way but through her teeth.
Rachel Weisz, who plays Theodora’s more evil sister, Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East, is even more disappointing at being evil than Kunis. Even when the dialogue between other characters describes Weisz as cruel and manipulative, her acting isn’t convincing. It is possible that Weisz was trying to be subtle about her evilness, after all, the story notes that Evanora had the people of Oz convinced for years that Glinda was, in fact, the evil one. However, I think Weisz isn’t suited to play the second-most evil character in “Oz,” given her more emotional, dramatic resume.
Michelle Williams, who plays both Oz’s love interest in Kansas and Glinda the Good Witch, does a more acceptable acting job than her supposedly evil counterparts. She doesn’t even have to play the character, it seems, because it comes across naturally. The downside of Williams’ sweet nature is that in the scenes where she should be acting terrified, surprised or even angry, like in the final moments in the film, she can’t convey any emotion other than sweetness or happiness.
The main cast may have underacted, but the supporting cast carries the film with comic relief. Zach Braff as Oz’s flying-monkey assistant, Finley, is snarky and sarcastic, but cute and endearing at the same time. The China Girl, played by Joey King, is innocent with an attitude. Her snappy retorts to the Wizard elicited the most laughs of any joke in the movie.
The story is weak for a Disney film, though character development is relatively strong despite the lack of support from the acting. Every plot twist is more predictable than would be expected of a prequel, considering we already know what happens years down the road when Dorothy comes along. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I will say that the ending conveyed that violence is bad, though lying and manipulation on the behalf of good can triumph over evil. But isn’t lying evil itself? This moral ambiguity isn’t the type of message that the audience should be getting from Disney.
The best part of the movie was the visual effects. Disney has enough money for the audience to expect greatness out of its computer animators, but “Oz” went beyond expectations. Fantastical scenes like a forest of emerald crystals, a lake with giant flowers growing out of it and a city made of porcelain tea sets looked like they were shot on location rather than in a studio. The effects are absolutely worth the extra money for 3D, and you will probably never hear me say that again. I couldn’t say that for “Avatar.”
The effects are so good, however, it seems Disney paid for them in acting and story.
Contact CU Independent News Budget Editor Avalon Jacka at Avalon.email@example.com.
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