L. Frank Baum would have a conniption fit! Never in his wildest dreams (and I'll bet his were pretty wild) could he have imagined such a mind-bending, visual orgy! We are treated to a combination of PG-rated, Computer Generated overkill, truly scary flying monsters (waaaay worse than those flying monkeys in the original), a pep talk on teamwork and a lovely homage to the MGM classic (the title sequence and the first scenes set in a two-bit Kansas carnival are in black and white).
As you probably already know, this prequel shows how a cheesy conman became the man behind the curtain.
- * James Franco ("127 Hours") is Oscar Diggs, otherwise known as Oz, who is described as a "small-time magician with dubious ethics." I liked his Scrooge McDuck dive into that tempting pile of gold.
- * Zach Braff ("Garden State") is our hero's sidekick, both as a much-abused human assistant in the black and white carnival show and as a (cute but much-abused) flying monkey instructed to "Show up. Keep up. Shut up!" in Oz.
- * Mila Kunis ("Black Swan") eventually becomes Theodora, the Wicked Witch of the West. They worked it out so her profile is the same as Margaret Hamilton's in the original.
- * Rachel Weisz ("Agora") is Evanora, a witch I don't recall from the earlier movie, but I'm sure she must be in the Baum series. Somehow I skipped reading them when I was a child.
- * Michelle Williams ("My Week With Marilyn") is Annie, a young woman our hero is infatuated with in Kansas, but when she shows up as Glinda in Oz, he is confused.
- * Bill Cobbs ("The Muppets") is the handyman/tinkerer who becomes essential to The Plan.
- * Joey King ("Ramona and Beezus") starts as the little crippled girl in the wheelchair (sad), and in Oz, the China doll with the broken legs (get it?).
This is entertaining and colorful, but those flying beasts have fangs, the two evil witches shoot flaming missiles from their hands and the ride in the balloon is pretty scary. On the other hand, I appreciated the tribute to Thomas Alva Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park.