Oh, Sam Raimi. It’s always so nice to see you behind the cameras again, and even you’re allowed a fluff piece here and there. After tackling three mega-budgeted Spider-Man films you got to return to the place you’re most at home with Drag Me to Hell. Now you’ve been whisked back to the land of CGI to moderate success with Disney’s prequel Oz the Great and Powerful. With a set full of lawyers making sure you don’t step on the ruby-slippered toes of Warner Bros. (who have sole rights to the original Wizard of Oz), you still managed to make the film Tim Burton should have with Alice in Wonderland, bringing to life a whole new Land of Oz based on the works of L. Frank Baum.
Oz the Great and Powerful refers to Oz (James Franco) himself of course, working as a magician in a traveling circus. His assistant Frank (Zach Braff) works hard to keep their illusions chugging along even so far as to using visible wires in the act that get called out by the crowd’s skeptics (Ted Raimi). Oz is about to face a few personal disasters of his own today when Annie (Michelle Williams) shows up to tell him she’s been asked by John Gale (Dorothy’s last name was Gale) for her hand in marriage but wants his advice on the situation — she’s obviously in love with him. Oz turns her away only to face the wrath of the circus Strongman (Tim Holmes) after finding one of Oz’s signature music boxes he gives to all the ladies. All this happens just as a twister shows up and Oz escapes via hot air balloon only to get swept right up into the tornado.
Before you can say “there’s no place like home,” he crashes into the not-so-merry Land of Oz and meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) on the riverbank. She is certain that he is the prophesized wizard destined to save the land from the wicked witch and become their king. Theodora escorts Oz to the Emerald City where her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) isn’t so sure about their newfound hero. Evanora shows Oz all the treasures that could be his (including but not limited to a golden chalice). First he must find the wicked witch’s wand and destroy it to kill the wicked witch and free the Land of Oz from her tyranny. Along the way he meets up with a flying monkey named Finley (voiced by Braff) who swears his mortal allegiance after Oz saves his from being eaten by a lion, a tiny China Girl (voiced by Joey King) who demands to help kill the wicked witch to avenge the destruction of her home in China Town, and Glinda (Williams again) who really is good.