It’s been over 70 years since Judy Garland’s Dorothy was swept into the Land of Oz to find the wonderful Wizard. Oz the Great and Powerful shows us how the dime-a-dozen magician from a traveling circus becomes the wizard behind the curtain.
I’m recommending this one for the 3D theater. It’s just too fun and beautiful an adventure to miss, but be warned, there are very dark and frightening scenes for children – including winged, rabid baboons and a witch that would frighten the foulest of ruler-brandishing, Catholic schoolteachers. Aside from that, the allegory was decent, if sometimes obvious, and didn’t get lost in the C.G. shadows.
The story hits its stride early, introducing Oscar (played effortlessly by James Franco) and his internal conflict. Oscar is a two-bit, womanizing con-artist trying to fly above his plain world of black and white. He aspires to do great things, through deception, playing with his pretty assistant’s hearts …and with fire.
Oscar’s dark but charming smile and brilliant ingenuity are enough to sell the folks of Podunk-town on his magical powers, but hiding the truth about himself is about to be proved too great a trick. His magic show works a little too well, and a young girl in a wheel chair asks for a miraculous healing. Her impoverished parents practically throw whatever pitiful amount of money they have at Oscar, eyes bursting with hope that their daughter may walk again. The withering wizard vanishes behind his curtain, but his history with former assistants, in the form of the circus muscle-man, chases him right into his wagon, through a trap door, on board a hot-air balloon and into a Kansas tornado of a portal. Oscar makes his apologies and promises to whatever powers may listen, and his great wish is granted in a way more powerful than he ever expected.
Imagine a magical land full of vibrant colors where every plant sings and every citizen is innocent as a child, except of course for Oscar himself… and one other. It’s Cirque du Soleil meets Dr. Seuss; and everyone believes Oscar is Oz, except the one who needs to believe it most. Oscar, soon-to-be appointed king of the land, crashes Dorothy-style into his own prophecy, and we’re taken along for the very adventurous and captivating ride.
Of course, there’s a catch. Oz has to fulfill his prophecy before inheriting kingly wealth and destroy the wicked witch. That means taking it upon himself to save a world as beautiful and frail as the helpless child and broken hearts that he ran from. Oscar’s charm quickly runs out somewhere along the yellow brick road, when he runs into a reality check. Even in a magical land full of naive, simple-minded folk, his cavalier appears out of nowhere to catch him cheating with his great act of self-deception. Oscar is no Wizard, or anyone deserving the credit of possessing kingly qualities. He’s a trickster, filled with all the stuff of his hot-air balloon. What business has a con-artist in the affairs of such a wonderful land?
Confronted with his own dark intentions and faced with the reality of his “greatness”, Oscar’s thinning conscience is the only evidence he still has a heart, much to his chagrin. But to his surprise, it leads him down a two hour, fifteen minute long and morally winding trail. He sets out to discover which witch is wicked, and more importantly, what are the truest desires of his heart.
In a world where magic is as real as the white dove in his coat, Oz finds his con-artist skills have actually become his only saving grace, depending on how he decides to use them.
With trusting souls in tow, the fate of the land in his wake and true love in sight, will Oscar become the man everyone else needs him to be? Or will he abandon his last chance to be good for the sake of doing great and choose smoke-and-mirrors goodness? …Wouldn’t you trust this smile?