Red flag #1: Disney. If you've followed my blog, you know I am not a Disney fan. In fact, one of the most fun movies I saw at Sundance was the Anti-Disney Movie called "Escape from Tomorrow." Red flag #2: Lots of hype. Mega Marketing. Sometimes, we need to follow Mies Van Der Rohe and go with "less is more." Red flag #3: They were messing with a classic. The classic that I grew up with . The classic that I looked forward to seeing each and every year as I circled it in the TV Guide and counted down the days until it was on. The classic that I didn't know changed from B&W to color until 1975 when my family finally got a color TV set. And the classic that I watched from under the dining room table to protect me from the monkeys just in case they were real. In fact, I memorized the witch's lines in hopes of one day playing The Wicked Witch of the West in a play when I was older. I wrote feverishly under that dining room table on one of my father's yellow legal pads to later read the lines into a cassette recorder; mastering each line in front of the mirror. It's no wonder I loved playing a witch for the local "Haunted Bridge" event. I stopped once the liquid latex which produced wrinkles on my face didn't appear to come off! In any case, I digress...just a smidge. Back to OZ. The red flag system (more than 2) has been pretty accurate. And in this case, my batting average is better than Derek Jeter's!
I sat, in my usual seat, waiting to be entertained. I loved the B&W intro along with the beginning of the story filmed in B&W. This rang true (at least after 1975 for me) with the original. After all the hype, I watched as James Franco played the Wizard, knowing that he was not director Sam Raimi's first choice. (See Entertainment Weekly's great article about the making of this film.) The beginning, to be honest, was entertaining with its rather corny jokes and situations of irony. Then, you guessed it, the tornado hit. Oz (short for Oscar) was pulled violently into the whirlwind to land in the Technicolor land of Oz. As he awoke, CGI did as well. The hummingbirds and butterflies brought me back to Disney's land of Snow White. In fact, I was transported back to 1937 with the special effects/cartoonish feel to the insects and feathered friends. With the hummingbird's blue color, I then started to sing Zippity Do Dah from Song of the South! Maybe that was Disney's intent: to reminisce about old Disney films. I can't seem to reconcile the CGI effects with the 1939 effects of the Wizard of Oz. In the 1939 film, those monkeys were real. Oz and the Emerald City were real. It felt real. For 1939, they did a great job with what they had to work with. Now here we are in 2013 and it was not perfect CGI. My eye was drawn to the fact that Franco and Williams were working with air...the space that the later incorporated CGI character would take up. There were spaces between the hands and the CGI China doll and many other examples. Disney was sloppy.
We are introduced to the first witch played by the gorgeous Mila Kunis. Oz, ever the philanderer and womanizer, dupes this poor, trusting witch into thinking that kissing and dancing equates love and marriage....typical male! The sibling rivalry is really what this film is about. The three sisters, although raised by the same man who was apparently the King of Oz, were oh so very different. I'm not sure where mom was. Maybe that's another story in and of itself! Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams round out the Witch Sister characters. The costumes and make-up were wonderful. Rachel's green gown would be perfect to wear to the Green Tie Ball in Chicago. I hope someone can hook me up with that!
The backgrounds and settings were truly beautiful. Total technicolor at its finest. No doubt the acting of the "extras" was exaggerated and a bit hoaky, but I'm guessing (and hoping) that's the effect they were after. As we s-l-o-w-l-y moved through the story with the close-ups and predictable background music, more of the focus of the story was revealed. We have a moral to the story and a place to leave off which is where Dorothy and the classic that I love picks up. The movie is probably geared toward everyone. Let's face it, who didn't grow up with "The Wizard of Oz!" No one! It'll pull everyone and every age group in. I felt it was slow and disappointing. I would recommend waiting for the DVD.