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Movie review: ‘Oz the Great’ pretty but has plodding plot

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Film review

'Oz the Great and Powerful'
What: James Franco stars as the future Wizard of Oz in this film that veers from dazzling to repetitive as a prequel to the 1939 movie classic.
Where playing: Carmike-Dupont Road, Carmike-Jefferson Pointe, Carmike-Jefferson Pointe IMAX, Cinema Grill, Coldwater, Huntington 7, Strand in Kendallville
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
2 stars out of four

Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 12:01 am

“Oz the Great and Powerful” aims for nostalgia in older viewers who grew up on “The Wizard of Oz” and still hold the classic dear while simultaneously enchanting a newer, younger audience. It never really accomplishes either successfully.

A prequel to the groundbreaking 1939 film, “Oz” can be very pretty but also overlong and repetitive, with a plot that's more plodding that dazzling. “Oz” features a couple of fun performances, a handful of witty lines, some clever details and spectacular costumes.

At its center is a miscast James Franco, co-star of Raimi's “Spider-Man” movies, as the circus huckster who becomes the reluctant Wizard of Oz. On the page (in the script from Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire), Franco's selfish, scheming womanizer provides an early glimpse of the famous fraud that Dorothy Gale and her posse of new pals will go on to expose.

But Franco seems too boyish for the role; he's neither charismatic nor self-loathing enough, and his performance frequently consists of hammy goofing. So when his character does have a change of heart and decides to accept his destiny as a noble and inspiring leader, it rings hollow.

Like Dorothy, Franco's Oscar Diggs is whisked away from sepia-toned, rural Kansas of 1905 through a tornado to the vibrantly hued, magical land that just happens to bear his nickname: Oz.

Like Dorothy, he walks along the yellow brick road with some new companions who have ties to his old life back home: a wisecracking, flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff, channeling Billy Crystal) and a spritely but resourceful china doll (voiced by Joey King).

And like Dorothy, once he reaches his destination, he must face a witch. But which witch is which? You see, there are three, one of whom is the truly wicked one.

First, he meets the beautiful and naive Theodora (Mila Kunis), who believes he is the wonderful wizard her father, the king, said would come to save Oz in a prophecy before he was killed. Next comes Theodora's sophisticated and deceitful sister, Evanora (a funny, vampy Rachel Weisz). Finally, there's Glinda the Good Witch, played by a sweetly ethereal Michelle Williams.But this time, something is missing in the magic.