Oz the Okay and Morally Acceptable (I Guess)

So, I figured that now that I have this blog, I have a responsibility to stop waiting a month to see movies that come out. I saw that Oz the Great and Powerful was coming soon to theaters. I reread The Wonderful Wizard of Oz AND read its sequel The Marvelous Land of Oz so that I would be all ready with helpful insights from the source texts. Then tonight after our Friday night Soup and Stations, the husband offered to escort me to a movie on opening night.

And I totally did not like it.

But for my reviewing purposes, "Did you like it?" is not as important a question as, "Can I let my kids see it?"

And the answer is, "I guess so. Do your kids like dumb movies? ('Cause mine do.)"

The whole thing had a very floppy, CG feel to me. The land of Oz seemed not so much marvelous as just totally fake. I didn't particularly connect with any of the characters or really understand their motivations. (Except for Oz, who wants to be Great. That I got.) The China Doll throws a temper tantrum and gets her way, which I would hate for my children to imagine was possible. The action scenes felt made for a theme park ride, or perhaps made for the 3D version. The writing is pretty uninspired. An actual quote that I wrote down: "Oh my gosh. That was close."

And then, there's the morally questionable stuff. James Franco's Oz is supposed to be a super-handsome, charming, ladies' man. (I see him more as an endearing-scoundrel type, so he was miscast for me.) He is involved romantically with six different women. And with one in particular, the movie hints pretty strongly at a physical relationship. However, my rules of discerning movie watching say that immoral behavior should be presented in a non-titillating way, and accompanied by realistic consequences. Any hanky-panky past smooching takes place off-screen and is left ambiguous, and the consequences of Oz's womanizing behavior are severe indeed.

So, it passes the main test there.

I was uncomfortable with the fact that Glinda the GOOD witch sees Oz for who he really is, but encourages him to lie to her subjects "for their own good." Also, the evil witch is shown to have been turned evil by something unpleasant that happens to her, as if such a decision is utterly out of her control. And there's this whole plot device that the problems of the land of Oz can be solved by "believing." In what? That doesn't seem to matter.

I'm not, as a rule, troubled by scariness in kids' movies. But if YOU are, you should know that there's a baboon attack and a pretty awful witch-transformation that could be upsetting. And, in an attempt to prove his old-fashionedness, Oz says "damn" at the beginning. If tight leather pants on a "good" witch bothers you, there's also that.

What did I like? They are attempting a grifter-makes-good kind of story, so that's nice. The finale involves Oz using his con man talents for good rather than evil, also nice. Faced with death at the beginning of the movie, Oz's vocal prayers are answered in a very direct way. And there's a decision regarding a poisoned apple that is much more Garden of Eden than Snow White. Glinda points out that Goodness is more important than Greatness, which I liked a lot. I appreciated that some of the actors appear both in black-and-white Kansas and in colorful Oz, a nod to the 1939 movie. (Which is all you'd need to be familiar with if you're hoping to "get" this movie. The only inclusion from the book that's not in that film is China Town. And we only stop by there to pick up the China Girl.)

I won't be taking my kids to see Oz the Great and Powerful. The 1939 version, The Wizard of Oz, is a far superior movie in my opinion. But if YOU want to take YOUR kids to see this one, it's okay with me.