This ain’t your grandma’s Oz

By Gina Scialabba

The Guardsman

Dorothy, we are certainly not in Kansas anymore.

And, it’s OK!

Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spiderman trilogy) takes audiences back to the famed land of OZ, complete with an Emerald City, singing munchkins and a philandering, relationship-phoebe wizard (James Franco) searching for  “greatness.”

If you hope to see Judy Garland skipping down the yellow brick road with Terry the Cairn Terrier (Toto’s off screen name), you will be disappointed.

Come to this movie with an open mind. You will be entertained. Isn’t that all we can ask for?

There have been many different takes on this tale: The Wiz (Michael Jackson)—Wicked—even the Muppets tried capitalizing from this story.  Raimi’s version is different.

Oh, the movie has its flaws. NPR called it “gender stereotyped” and embodied the old adage, “They don’t make films like they used to.”

OK, agreed. The movie is as sexist as they come. Three angry witches all fighting over “a great and powerful man.” The Wicked Witch is green with rage. Another “woman scorned.”

It’s NOT a feminist manifesto.

Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a two-bit, con man magician trying to decide if he will be a “good man” or a “great one.”

He’s a fraud who defines his career by levitation schemes and pulling rabbits out of his hat.

Once the town realizes they are being duped, they run him out. He escapes via hot air balloon and ends up in OZ.

Jackpot! Legend has it a wizard-savior shall show up and free the people. Diggs takes on the role and gains the keys to the castle, so to speak.

With one caveat: he must defeat a wicked witch and save the kingdom from enslavement.

Oh, and he is also involved in a four-way love triangle. Guess there’s not many eligible bachelor-wizards in Oz.

The black and white opening scenes are beautifully done taking viewers back to Hollywood’s bygone era.

The movie is memorably visual with bold colors throughout. Not quite as eye-popping as Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, but beautiful nonetheless.

Franco ultimately carries the film. He is helped along by a cheeky, flying monkey, (voiced by Zach Braff) and a talking China Doll. Both characters are laugh out loud funny.

Raimi doesn’t allow the movie to take itself too seriously. There’s a lot of tongue-in-check humor and it works well.

The witches three (played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams) are a force to be reckoned with. Particularly Weisz.

Overall, this is a fun, fantasy film. No one can ever replicate Judy Garland’s mastery and nor should they.

If you go…

Running Time 130 minutes

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

US Release Date: March 8th, 2013

MPAA Rating: PG

Directed by Sam Raimi

Based upon works of L. Frank Baum


James Franco

Mila Kunis

Michelle Williams

Rachel Weisz

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The Guardsman