Momma Told Me: A Journey to Oz: Film Review and Hollywood Visit

Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Journey to Oz: Film Review and Hollywood Visit


Momma Told Me: We're not in Kansas anymore!

Okay, so the intro quote is a BIG cliche, but my Momma used to tell me this all the time; in fact, I think it's fair to say the original Wizard of Oz is easily one of the most identifiable feature films of all time. If you stop to think of all the media references to key elements (think the yellow brick road and ruby slippers), or even those throughout your own life, you'll probably find this film as iconic as me. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is first most a novel by celebrated author Frank L. Baum, published in 1900, and later adapted first for the stage in 1902, with the classic American film following suit in 1939. The majority of this is common knowledge worldwide, though very few recent generations are aware that there is an entire world of stories, 13 to be exact, based on the characters within, and written by Mr. Baum. The majority of these stories remain fairly short reads, and chronicle simple tales of the arrival and coming to be of those Oz inhabitants we all know and love so much.
I consider myself to be a bit of a quirky old soul, and skeptic when it comes to the recent trend of spin-off and remade popular classics. I was understandably hesitant to embrace the concept of a new Oz feature film series, when it was first announced several years back. Even the beloved Disney Studios name could not put me at ease, thinking my grandchildren might someday lack the basic recognition of the original characters and film. And, while knowing that this would be noted director, Sam Raimi's first foray into a full length 3-D feature film excited the majority of the general public I was also disheartened to think this new Oz feature would fly primarily on overzealous CG visuals and 3-D parlor tricks. Forgive me if I sound cynical- but these are my honest feelings going into our exclusive screening last Monday night.

Now, it wouldn't be a trip to Oz without an exciting visit to the local media capital, Hollywood, where we were set to see Oz The Great and Powerful in Disney Real D at one of the grandest theater houses (in my humble opinion), the El Capitan. For those not lucky enough to be local, the El Capitan is a Disney exclusive theater nestled next to the Disney Soda Shoppe and Gift Store. Originally a grandiose playhouse, opened in 1926 by real estate developer Charles Toberman (the Father of Hollywood), the El Capitan is gorgeously styled in classical theater-house design, and has hosted a myriad of noted actors such as personal favorite Clark Gable. When one attends a digital screening of a Disney film there today they are treated to a pre-show string of Disney songs played atop the in house Wurlitzer Theater Organ, which is often followed by a live show trying into the feature film. I fear my words do not paint a beautiful enough picture of this wonderfully colorful, and arguably magical, venue that seems lost in time and the perfect setting for Oz.
Oz review
Rated PG for "Sequences of Action, Scary Images, and Brief Mild Language," we decided to take 10 year old Sabrina along. Admittedly, the El Capitan experience was the highlight of our trip for her, including a chance to guess the Disney songs played by the organist, though Sabrina was no stranger to the upcoming Oz film. We had stopped, prior to admittance, in the Disney store and Soda Shoppe, where I informed Sabrina she could select any item of choice from the Oz merchandise line. There were several styles of Witch hats, Elegant Character Dolls, and even a plush winged monkey (which would have been my pick!), I was proud and surprised to see her select the film adapted novel. Yes, by the time the theater's 3 curtains finally drew back to reveal the artsy credits and intro, we were well immersed in the land of Oz.
I try my best to 'review' films without giving away the plot, or enticing crowd moments, though anyone familiar with the Oz novel series will already know the plot line for line. The story is very much true in that sense, and the film seems if anything a bit embellished in length. Disney and the director, as I had anticipated, spent quite a bit of extra time rolling through colorful enchanted landscapes and playing with predictable 3D effects.  I likely don't need to tell you the main cast consists of Oz (James Franco), Theodora The Witch (Mila Kunis), Evanora the Witch (Rachel Weisz), Glinda (Michelle Williams), and comedic sidekick Frank/Finley the Flying Monkey (played by Zach Braff). As you might assume, Finley the monkey is entirely CG, but he is not the only sole CG main character in the film, series classic China Girl is also a unique interpretation of the classic character.

While the rolling scenes of Bubble Travel, Mysterious Mists, and Tornado Tumbling Balloons are set amidst gorgeously painted backdrops and interactive environments, I did feel some of the film's more darker moments were a bit too intense. 10 year-old Sabrina, who watches Zombie films and The Walking Dead, was caught multiple times with her fingers in her ears and wincing at the over-zealous and quite terrifying flying minions (baboons) of the Evil Witch. Also a bit heart-pounding is the Tornado sequence which features many instances of loud noises followed by piercing 3D effects. As someone who does not consider herself sensitive to 'scare tactics' and loud noises, these sequences were equally bothersome for me, and I found myself wishing them over quickly. On a lighter note, the choice (and, really was there any other consideration?) to have the film scored by accredited Danny Elfman truly brought the beautiful characters, makeup, and landscape to life, and helps make the more magical moments of this film more, well, magical.
Disney
I may be a bit old-school, but I found myself enjoying the more classical Oz moments, such as this end scene where Glinda reads a decree to the good people of Oz, outside the Emerald palace. I was disappointed there were less nods to traditional Wizard of Oz known characters and moments (I really wanted to see a full munchkin song), but happy to get a sense of where the future films will take us. There was a bit of insight into the beginnings of the Scarecrow, and even the King's trusted Lion (more commonly known as the Cowardly Lion), and in general enough content to please even the staunchest of classical Oz fans. Yes, Oz The Great and Powerful is a much more cinematic endeavor into the world of Oz, but loveable characters like Finley and even China Girl really helped ease the sharpness of Mila Kunis (almost over-the top acting job) and James Franco's jovial presence.

So, is it worth the $13+ average admission price for a 3D Digital Ticket? In my opinion, I could wait a week or two for the buzz to settle down, and still have enjoyed it just as much. I do wish this was offered in a non-3d format, where I feel I might enjoy the costumes and landscape more, without the distraction of digital parlor tricks, but the characters are loveable, and Sabrina seemed to truly enjoy it. In fact, she has been reading the book all week! So long as you hit your set with an open mind to a modern adaptation of a literature classic, you'll be sure to let loose with laughter at Finley's lighthearted jokes, and find yourself anticipating the announcement of the next film.

What Daughter Says: Oz The Great and Powerful is one modern adaptation of beloved classic literature that passes my strict standards.





As Required by The FTC: My family was invited to a pre-screening of the above film. No other compensation was offered. Regardless, all opinions within are mine and mine alone. Screen captures are courtesy of Disney Studios and subject to relevant copyrights.

32 comments:

  1. Personally I loved the organ performance before the show. Oh and the movie was great too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i really wanna see this movie!

    vanitizebaby at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can't wait to see this movie!
    This whole movie was filmed in Michigan! Just 1 hour away from the city I live in! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the 3-D effects and animations in this new version of Oz!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post. My kids really want to see this movie.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I always love Oz and I look forward to seeing the new version with the 3-D effects.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just saw this last night in IMax 3D and it was so good!! I loved the 3D, in fact I flinched a few times as I thought I was close enough to be in the movie.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I saw it yesterday with my daughter....it was pretty freakin awesome

    sibabe64 at ptd dot net

    ReplyDelete
  9. My son and husband went to a screening of this and they loved it so much! I cannot wait to see it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I wish there was a non 3d version, I get vertigo sometimes and 3d is a no go

    ReplyDelete
  11. I really can't wait to see this movie I love oz as a kd

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a great movie! I loved Finley and the China girl.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Looks like you had a great time. I can't wait to see that movie, it was filmed in my home state!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time...it looks magical :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. This looks like a fun place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really want to see this movie and I am so glad I read your review because my 6 year old really wants to see this too and maybe we will wait till it comes out on dvd so it might not be so scary for her wilcarvic
    [at]gmail[dot[com]]

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am not a fan of 3-D. I have glasses and I hate wearing glasses over glasses and besides everything looks so dark to me with 3-D. I did not realize they were not offering it in a non-3d format. Was that just for the preview shows? I may have to skip it because in 3-D movies I start to get crabby about half way thru. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm so jealous! That would have been such a cool trip and to get to go to Hollywood and El Capitan would have been so awesome. My daughter's are just dying to see this but I kinda want them to see the original first.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a great review! Makes me want to see it!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Well, this is one I would like to see. I have heard mixed reviews of it. I may wait until it comes out on DVD.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am not a big fan of 3D (they give me headaches), but The Wizard of Oz is my husband's favorite movie of all time and I like it as well. We were going to see it on our anniversary, which just so happened to open on our anniversary, however, our son was sick. We are planning to see it this weekend and I can't wait, especially after reading your review!

    ReplyDelete
  22. my son and i want to see this movie soooooo bad!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I've been hearing and seeing so much about this movie throughout the blogosphere lately and I really can't wait to see it myself!

    I'm definitely a fan of the original Wizard of Oz, so I'm curious to see how this adaption will fit in with the original.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have trouble concentrating through 3D - wish they had a non option.

    ReplyDelete
  25. i can wait to go see this movie it has a great cast

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lucky you not only getting to see the movie but in such an awesome theater. Now I want to see it even more after your review.

    Tracy @ Cotton Pickin Cute

    ReplyDelete
  27. Really looking forward to this movie

    ReplyDelete
  28. I want to see this movie, as well! Take me to the land of Oz......

    ReplyDelete
  29. i cant wait to see this movie!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I enjoyed the movie, I was kind of worried that I wasn't going to like it, but it was pretty good, can't wait to see the next one!

    ReplyDelete