This movie makes me fear even more for the future of the Star Wars franchise. What has happened to Disney? Instead of inspiring wonder and amusement, they too seem to have gone the way of bland mediocrity, an opiate for the cinematic masses. If it weren’t for Pixar, there would be no creative output from the Mouse’s film vault.
The writing isn’t terrible, but neither is it particularly good. The theme of being the best you can be and being true to yourself is so repetitive as to become nauseating. What really kills this movie is the acting.
James Franco squints his way through, delivering ridiculously bad performances throughout. It’s as if he thinks his mildly decent looks will distract the audience from how wretched he is. Mila Kunis, usually passable if not brilliant, is out of step the entire film. I don’t entirely blame her however — she should have been directed better. Michelle Williams was saccharine and vapid. If I were one of the witchy sisters, I’d try to ruin her too. Rachel Weisz manages to merely nibble at the scenery rather than gobble it, in most scenes. Actually, the best performances are from two CGI characters — China Doll and Finley the Monkey.
It’s sad. L. Frank Baum gave us characters and adventures that are still magical over 100 years later. But even in the hands of the most respected animators in the world, it fails.
The best part of the movie is the brilliant opening credit sequence. It perfectly captures turn-of-the-century circus and magic aesthetic. You can watch it here and spare yourself the rest of the movie:
This steampunky theme returns only later in the movie to great effect. I do wish they had used the simplicity and shabby realism of this style more often.
In short, the movie is terrible. It has no business joining the annals of Oz, nor does it deserve a place on the shelf next to Sleeping Beauty or Toy Story. Like one of the magician’s tricks, this was a cheap illusion to disappear money out of our pockets and into the Disney’s.