Oscar Diggs (James Franco, “Eat Pray Love") is a street-magician with traveling circus in Kansas. He performs his tricks, both for the audience and beautiful women, with equal charm and smarminess. Although he does seem to hold a special place in his heart for a special lady, Annie (Michelle Williams, “Shutter Island”). The extended black-and-white scenes are necessary and give insight into Oscar's life and aspiration.
After being chased out of his trailer during an incident, Oscar hops into a hot air balloon and runs into a tornado. He gets twirled and transported into a fantasy land vibrant beyond imagination. Cascading waterfalls, blooming flowers and glowing butterflies over verdant lands and snowy mountains in the background.
Oscar meets a beguiling beauty, Theodora (Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”), who says that she's a good witch. She mistakes him for a wizard, who falls out of the sky to save the people and claims the throne, fulfilling a prophecy of defeating a wicked witch who killed the king. She leads him the yellow brick road to the diamond palace of Emerald City and see her sister, another witch, Evanora (Rachel Weisz, "The Bourne Legacy"). Dangled with riches and respect, Oscar plays along and pretends that he's indeed Oz, the wizard. Along the way, he partners with a winged monkey (Finley) and porcelain doll (China Girl), who accompany him in his misadventures. His interactions with them are the highlights of the movie, comical and tender.
When Oscar finally finds the purported Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda (Michelle Williams), the truth comes out. He faces the challenge of continuing to assume his identity as a savior for the sake of the people, who places their belief and hope in him, or run and hide.
Oscar is faced with the impossible dilemma of leading an army of ordinary folks - munchkins, farmers and tinkers, who only know how to work the land, make bread, sew clothes or play music - against wicked witches, trained soldiers and flying beasts. With faith and encouragement from those around him, the mortal con-man comes up with a plan utilizing his skills as a magician and everyone's strengths to create wondrous smokescreen to defeat the enemy. The clever trickery, using fog bank, scarecrows, illusion, fires and fireworks, play out masterfully. Oscar may not be the great and powerful wizard they're looking for, but he may be just what they need. He may be destined for greatness and there may be goodness in him after all.
"Wizard of Oz” may be a movie originally made for kids, but “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is a magical spectacle and story enjoyable for all ages. The vivid visuals alone are worth the admission price. The 3-D makes the special effects really pop but not overused. And especially for those who've never seen the 1939 film, director's Sam Raimi's version of 'Oz' is sweepingly enchanting and engaging.
DVD (blu-ray): http://tinyurl.com/ajwrs6d