Does anyone remember The Wizard of Oz, along with its whimsical setting and characters, and catchy musical numbers? If you do, then this “spiritual prequel” will seem all the more shallow. All the charm that the old film had will literally melt before your eyes, washed away in a sea of standardized CGI. Wasting no time, the film starts off as an exercise of pretentious imitation, trying to imitate the style of an old-fashioned nickelodeon screen in some ham-fisted attempt at realism that has little to do with the actual plot at large. Eventually, the screen adjusts to normal size and the film transitions to bright and vivid colours. One immediate problem is that it’s impossible root for the hero, if he can be called such.
The fact that the Wizard of Oz is being played by the terribly unlikable James Franco is the least of our problems. In this film, the Wizard of Oz is a complete jerk. He’s a con artist (like all stage magicians), he’s a trashy womanizer, he takes credit for tricks he had pulled off by dumb luck, and on top of that, he’s only in it for the money. In one scene where he’s in the castle treasury, and when he’s asked if he wants to defeat the wicked witch, he accepts, but not before looking at the gleaming pile of gold he’ll get.
It doesn’t help that the actor portraying him is a pretty bad actor, as shown be his passionless and unenthusiastic performance of the main character. The whole cast is filled with talentless hacks, or at best, actors who try to be successful but always get overshadowed by bigger stars. And of course, for all the film’s ambition, if it has Zach Braff in it, it’s generally not a good sign, though to Zach’s credit, his character in the movie showed more lively enthusiasm for the role than James Franco does for his. There were very few characters in the film that didn’t make me cringe. It seems to me that a lot more time and effort went into making the film look nice and pretty as opposed to writing something decent. No wonder they couldn’t get any good actors for this film.
In the film’s defence, the visuals in Oz were quite nice, and the special effects were polished, but that’s pretty much the only nice thing I can say about this film. The only notably entertaining scene in the whole movie was the climactic final fight. The rest of the movie was two boring hours of bad acting. It’s literally The Wizard of Oz through a conventional Hollywood fantasy filter, and the end result is a soulless star vehicle for James Franco. Then again, it would terribly naïve to expect anything good from the same person who made the Spider-Man films, and it’s a pretty bizarre turn of events when the Spider-Man movie was an absolute pain to watch, and yet this film is somehow worse. If anything, this film represents a commercialized distortion of fantasy that has somehow become the normal perception of fantasy in the minds of Hollywood producers. If that’s not a sign of how bad things are in Hollywood, then I don’t know what is.
- Score: 45%
- Grade: D