Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews Oz the Great and Powerful, director Sam Raimi's sorta-prequel to The Wizard of Oz, in today's Washington Times:
Let's start with the obvious: Sam Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful" does not even begin to compare with the timeless majesty of its 1939 predecessor, Victor Fleming's "The Wizard of Oz," which still ranks as one of the great big-screen fantasies.
The good news is that Mr. Raimi's movie doesn't really try — and, indeed, often seems charmingly aware of its own relative shortcomings.
Technically speaking, Mr. Raimi's film is not related to Fleming's "The Wizard of Oz" at all: Instead, Mr. Raimi's movie is based on public domain material from the works of children's author L. Frank Baum.
Still, even if "Oz the Great and Powerful" is not legally a prequel, it serves much the same function, telling the story of how Oz (James Franco), a young magician and con-man from Kansas, ends up in a bright and mystical faraway world in need of saving. On his way, he meets a trio of witches (played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, andMichelle Williams), a flustered winged monkey (Zach Braff) and a tiny girl made out of china (Joey King). It's an origin story — a tale about how the Wizard of Oz became The Wizard of Oz.
Mr. Franco is an enjoyable, if understated, presence as Oz, who he plays as a sort of disaffected stoner. But it's Mr. Raimi who's the real star.