When Downey dropped out (due to his Marvel obligations no doubt), and James Franco stepped in I wasn't too thrilled. I am not a Francophile. My friend Frances who loves the guy may throw up in her mouth when she reads this, but for some reason he just doesn't do it for me. Anywho, the film fell off my radar when he took on the role and did not register again until I saw the trailer for the movie. Needless to say I was impressed and was greatly curious over Sam Raimi's take on Oz and the man who became the Wizard.
The film starts off in black and white and it shows Franco as a charlatan working for a traveling circus who plays people for profit and women for sport. The one woman he does care about is Michelle Williams (who unlike Katie Holmes keeps making great career moves post Dawson's Creek) and she comes to see Oz at the circus to let him know she has been proposed to by another man. While talking to her, a fellow circus performer comes looking for Oz after it's found out that the womanizing magician has been hitting on his girlfriend. Oz makes a quick getaway in an air balloon, gets caught up in a tornado, winds up in Oz, and that's when his journey of self discovery begins.
Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz play sisters Theodora and Evanora who figure prominently in this movie and in the original. Mila's character Theodora was a wide eyed innocent in the beginning of the film, but after turning wicked thanks to Evalora that's when her character became interesting to me. The makeup, costumes, and sets were amazing and the CGI was on point as well. Zach Braff's role as Oz's (human) lackey is small but he gives voice to the Flying Monkey who becomes Oz's best friend and confidante. China Doll is another character that Oz befriends along the way and his relationship with her brings out a paternal side to Oz that even he did not know existed. Michelle Williams' other role in Oz is that of Glenda the Good Witch and she helps Oz discover the importance of what it means to help others and to be a selfless person.
All in all I give the film high marks all around. I know there have been rumblings of a sequel and with its weekend gross so far I would not be surprised if the script for the next one is not already underway!
1 popcorn: Poor
2 popcorns: Wait and rent it!
3 popcorns: Good, but not great
4 popcorns: Excellent, worth the admission