Long before Dorothy was caught in a tornado, landed in Oz and skipped down the yellow brick road with a scarecrow, a lion and a man made of tin, circus conman Oscar (James Franco) was caught in his own whirlwind and transported - via a hot air balloon - to the same far, far away land.
Upon his impressive arrival – the use of 3D in particular during this sequence is superb – the two-bit, womanising, wannabe magician finds himself caught in the middle of an unusual triangle. Three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), are all vying to gain power over Oz, and before he decides which side he is going to take, Oz (short for Oscar, natch) must figure out which witch is good, which witch is bad and which witch is downright evil.
Theodora is the first to meet Oscar and she convinces the rogue performer that he is the prophesied wizard that has come to rid the kingdom of Oz of all evil. Kunis is surprisingly stiff and very hard to warm to in the early part of the movie, which is mostly down to the stilted script she is given to work with. Theodora goes through a major transformation later on - which we don’t want to spoil – and while there is scope for Kunis to camp up the role, it still feels lacklustre.
After a trip down the yellow brick road, where he picks up the first of his sidekicks, Finley the flying monkey (voiced excellently by Zac Braff), Oz arrives in the Emerald City. Here, a vampy and seductive Weisz as Evanora informs him that in order to claim the throne – and the royal treasure to boot – he must kill the wicked witch.
Back on the yellow brick road, he meets China Girl (Joey King), whose teacup village and porcelain family have all been smashed into tiny pieces by the wicked witch. The trio – China, Finley and Oz – head with trepidation towards the Dark Forrest, where they plot to destroy the Wicked Witch.
However, their plan is soon thwarted when they meet Glinda the Good and discover the true identity of the Wicked Witch - Oz must now decide if he is wizardly enough to save the day.
There are a lot of really good things about this movie. Michelle Williams gives a sterling performance - she is one of those rare actresses who just radiates kindness. Zac Braff and Rachel Weisz are perfectly cast and the whole production looks stunning.
I’m not usually a big fan of 3D, but Sam Raimi has executed it extremely well in this colourful, effects driven movie. There are plenty of jump-out-of-the-screen moments to make wearing the glasses worthwhile.
The big problem with Oz... is Franco’s casting as the wizard. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Franco hater, but he is miscast in this movie. The wizard before he became the wizard was a bit of money-swindling, two-timing cad, who should’ve been just charming and self-deprecating enough for you to care about, so that when he actually assumes the role of the wizard you are rooting for him to succeed. But I didn’t care about him at all; in fact he actually began to irritate me by the end of the movie.
Robert Downey Jr’s name had been bandied about for this role prior to filming and he would’ve have been a much better fit. As Franco himself says in the movie he is "just not the man you wanted me to be".