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Oz and Beyond

This weekend finally saw the theatrical release of the much-anticipated Oz: The Great and Powerful. I saw it yesterday, in 3-D and on a massive screen. I thought it was OK. While a visually impressive film, the acting left something to be desired (perhaps because they were mostly acting against blue screens and characters who sometimes weren't there). My two favorite characters were CGI (except for the voices): Frank the monkey and China Girl. Mila Kunis seemed miscast, although I like her in most other things.

Something I was reminded of while watching Oz: The Great and Powerful is how the 1939 Wizard of Oz film stands alone in its preference to treat the land of Oz as a dream. Dorothy wakes up at the end with a big knot on her head, Aunt Em and the rest standing by her bedside, politely listening to her fantastic story of a world full of munchkins, wizards and witches. We understand that it was just a dream, and that is why so many of the people in Oz looked like those she knows in Kansas.

Newer productions, such as the Broadway smash Wicked and new Oz movie, embrace a certain realness for the far-off land. These characters aren't the imaginings of a girl conked on the head in Kansas. They have lives. They existed before her arrival, and will exist afterwards. They have back stories. And that brings me to something else.

If Oz: The Great and Powerful reminded me of anything, it's that I'm not big fan of prequels or back stories. Perhaps this is why I didn't care much for Wicked, or wasn't as impressed with the storyline of the Wicked Witch in the new Oz movie. And perhaps it is why I didn't enjoy the Star Wars prequels much? I don't really care to know how or why the Wicked Witch and Darth Vader became bad. They're just fiction. Give me some bad guys, some good guys and move on.

So, would I recommend Oz? Sure. It's visually remarkable (especially in 3-D), and while the acting may not be top-notch, it suffices. It probably appeals to the stereotypical gay man who likes all things Dorothy and things like Les Miserables, and it will no doubt appeal to most children (although it isn't always fast-paced). The 6-year-old in my group seemed to like it more than us four adults, and that's probably as it should be.


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