Wizard of Oz prequel

Oz the Great and Powerful Disney Rating: PG 130 minutes

Oz the Great and Powerful, based on the works of L. Frank Baum, tells the story of what happened before the story in the classic 1939 The Wizard of Oz.

James Franco plays a not very successful magician nicknamed Oz in 1905 Kansas. Fleeing an angry father (the magician has a nasty habit of seducing young women) in a hot air balloon he (like Dorothy) is caught in a tornado and whisked off to a magic kingdom.

There he meets three witches; played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. It takes awhile to sort out which witch is good and which are evil. They seek a wizard to rule the kingdom, which is loaded with gold, and fight the forces of the evil witch. Franco seems to be the closest thing to a wizard available, and while they battle among themselves, he uses trickery to win the day.

This is a mostly pleasant film. Like the original Oz movie, it starts out in box-screened black and white, and then expands to normal screen size and glorious colour when the main character enters the emerald kingdom. The effects are very colourful and impressive and the story is likable. However, the movie overstays its welcome. Franco is enjoyable and Kunis has the most fun as a witch, but Williams comes across as a goody two shoes. Children of a certain age will like it, but most adults will be glad when it ends.

Rating: three deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.