Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. I wanted to go to Oz, skip along the yellow brick road, meet the Scarecrow who would be my best friend, and my dog, Toto, would help us defeat the Wicked Witch and uncover what a fraud the Wizard was (No, really. I have a stuffed dog named Toto that I got from some nuns when I was two at a production of Cinderella Still have him. He's the best part of my childhood).
Last week, we went deeper into the Ozian History books to uncover how the Wizard, a traveling showman from Kansas, got to Oz and how the Wicked Witch of the West became so Wicked and Green.
While performing his flim flam act in a small Kansas town, Oz (James Franco) cheats his partner, Frank (Zach Braff, so nice to see him again! Thought we'd lost him after Scrubs was cancelled!), out of money, womanizes at least two different women, and let's his childhood sweetheart, Annie (wearing a blue gingham dress), accept the proposal of farmer, John Gale (Blue gingham, last name Gale. Ring any bells?), so he can go on to do great things with his life. While running away from the boyfriend of one of his conquests, he jumps in a hot air balloon and escapes...right into the path of a tornado. We know the rest of the story. The tornado, much like Dorothy in the Original Wizard of Oz stories, Oz is wisked to the land of Oz (how many times can I say Oz in this review?), where he lands in a pond and meets Theodora the Good Witch (Mila Kunis), who tells him of the prophecy of their former ruler, that a great Wizard would come and rescue the Ozians from the Wicked Witch. From there, we meet Theodora's older sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who was delightfully unhinged and a little twitchy in her role. Evanora sends Oz on a hunt for the witch, and to destroy her wand, which is the source of her power. Along the way, he takes his flying monkey, Finley (also Braff), who he'd saved from a lion on his way to the Emerald City, and they meet the little China girl (Joey King), who'd lost her entire China family when the Wicked Witch attacked. With the help of Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams, who also played the part of Annie, Oz's childhood sweetheart), the group defeats the real Wicked Witches (let's be real. We ALL know who they were!), and Oz stayed where he was, despite not having the Hogwarts-like powers of a real Wizard.
I was floored by how beautiful the production was. They paid homage to the 1939 Wizard of Oz, while also making sure to create a new world thanks to all the technologies created since then. We got to see exactly why and how the Ozians believed Oz was the Wizard they were waiting for, and Oz got to be the great man he wanted to be (Anyone who's seen the original knows where they end up). He used the tips and tricks that he'd used to fool hundreds of carnival goers for years to fool a race of people who had no idea what fireworks or projections were. It was fantastic to see how great Oz's imagination could be.
My favorite character was Finley. I love Zach braff anyway. He's loveable and adorkable, and he's not afraid to be silly. What's sillier than a monkey? Especially a flying monkey in a bellman suit. He acted as Oz's true conscience, telling him when he was being a selfish tool, and doing his part to help Oz become the great man he wanted to be.
It was interesting to see the family dynamic between Theodora and Evanora. I like watching sister relationships because I have a sister, myself, and I like to see how we differ or compare. I think everyone always knew that Evanora (Or, the future Wicked Witch of the East) was the more evil, because Glinda said so in the original. Evanora was manipulative and had Theodora wrapped around her finger. I think Theodora wanted to be just like her sister, or wanted to believe she was good, and was easily manipulated by her. Thankfully, this relationship is nothing like my relationship with my older sister.
I'm game for anything Wizard of Oz. When I got older, I truly appreciated what a messed up, yet wonderful movie Return to Oz was, I adored Wicked, the musical, and Tin Man from Syfy a few years ago. I will admit that I didn't care for Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, as it was much darker than any of the films I'd seen. I will admit that I haven't read the books, but I do think that Sam Raimi and his entire team did a fantastic job and I honestly think L. Frank Baum would have been proud to watch it. It was beautiful, fun to watch (in 3D, even), even if I did think a few things (which will remain a mystery) a little trite and copied from other fairy tales. However, I guage a movie on my overall experience, rather than break it down into little bitty pieces. I left the theatre with that giddy feeling, like when you find something you loved as a child, and experience it again. It was fantastic for that reason, alone. It was old and familiar, yet new and exciting. The perfect warm fuzzy.