By Laurie Coker

Rating: B-

Occasionally someone mentions the length of my reviews.  Just the other day, my sister chided me about my verbosity. Not because of these “critics,” but out of sheer necessity, this will be a brief reviews. With SXSW Film Festival starting today, I offer a glancing view of my opinion of Disney’s offering of the prequel to the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, with the wonderfully wild and witchy Oz the Great and Powerful, starring, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.  Unfortunately, because of a weekday evening screening, my grandson couldn’t attend, but I know he would have delighted in this brilliantly vivid version of the classic prequel tale originally penned by L. Frank Baum and directed by Sam Rami.

Leaping back in time, before Dorothy and Toto, the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, Oz the Great and Powerful tells the tale of how the womanizing Oz (Franco), a common carnival, conman magician, becomes Oz the Great and Powerful, king and leader of the Emerald City.  With frightening flying baboons, animated china dolls, an adorable winged monkey, little people, three witches and a host of others, we follow the yellow brick road to adventure and fireworks!

As noted, while I did enjoy the journey, I missed sharing it with my eight-year-old grandson, who will LOVE it when I finally am able to take him to see it. He is especially going to enjoy the eye-popping 3D aspect of the film that has audiences jumping with excitement. This new Oz will take fans of the Judy Garland classic will love the nostalgic tour, new generations of children and their families can delight in Disney’s colorful, crafty version of how the wicked witch of the west came to be, how Oz saved the Emerald City, and how he came to rule, before Dorothy drops from the sky.

Franco is in campy, cheeky good form as Oz and only Kunis seemed out of place. I never bought into her portrayal of the spurned Theodora, but the others in the cast excel, particularly Franco, who takes the idea of a Cheshire grin and enlarges it with funky, silly charm. Williams (Glenda the good Witch) and exceptionally witchy Weisz (Evanora) bring bubbles and sparks to the production.

Rated PG-13 – those are some scary 3D baboon with wings, Oz the Great and Powerful works hard to cross generations with its appeal, and it nearly does, but just nearly. I won’t say that Disney’s film is without fault, and that it will please everyone, but it is good family fun. I am placing a B- in my grade book. I can’t wait to share it with my kid-movie barometer.

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