Monday, March 11, 2013

FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD: Oz: The Great And Powerful isn't a perfect film by any means, and bits of it will likely scare the bejesus out of the younger portion of the audience, particularly in the surprisingly well-done 3-D version.  Franco is fine, in part because his standard "not caring" persona actually fits the character, Rachel Weisz gets to have some fun as a wicked witch, Joey King does some nice voice work, and it's nice to see Michelle Williams play a character who, for once, doesn't have "long-suffering" as a descriptor.  Mila Kunis, on the other hand, winds up badly miscast.  She's been likable enough when she's called upon to play the "cool chick" in Ted and Friends With Benefits, and she's fine until the script calls on her to make an abrupt character turn about halfway through the film.

Kunis also suffers from the film's toughest tightrope--while the original Baum books and illustrations are in the public domain, the material added for the MGM movie (the ruby slippers, particular character looks, the songs) and other recent derivative works (most notably, Wicked and its adaptation) are not, and Disney's lawyers have done a very careful tap dance there in how the movie has been designed, with much of the evasion directed toward her character (there's also an awkward Munchkin song).

The film's solid opening at least gives me hope that we're finally going to get a Wicked movie, and iconic as those two lead performances were in the original cast, I'm hoping they have the good sense to recast them more age-appropriately so we don't get a Rent with the performers all being way too old for their parts.  Feel free to fantasy-cast away in the comments (Samantha Barks as Elphaba? Victor Garber as the Wizard?).


  1. Tosy and Cosh12:31 PM

    My personal "NPH!" and "Anne Hathaway" knee-jerk response when musical casting comes up is "Mandy Patinkin"! I'm not that familiar with Wicked - would he work as the Wizard?

  2. It seems like Anna Kendrick has been auditioning for Elphaba for a while now, especially her duet with Chenoweth a few weeks back. I'm not sure if Anna's got the pipes to pull of Defying Gravity, but she's enough of a movie star now - and still age-appropriate - that I'm sure she'll be in the mix for casting. Barks would be TERRIFIC, but I doubt she's enough of a "name" in North America to get the part.

    And no, I still have no idea who to cast as Galinda.

  3. Jordan1:02 PM

    Since they've already apparently greenlit a sequel, does this mean we're going to get at some point another Return to Oz? I have vivid memories of seeing it as a child, but judging by the horrified looks I got describing it to someone last weekend, I'm not sure at this point if I actually saw it or if it was some horrible fever dream.

  4. KCosmo's neighbor2:21 PM

    I think Matt and I may have seen different movies. Oy... there are no words (in my opinion). I thought it was awful. I would have walked out if I wasn't there with my kids (who also thought it wasn't too great). I would have preferred it to either be funny or suspenseful--but it didn't seem quite sure what it wanted to be. Sorry...I'm just being honest.

  5. If I were guessing, the likeliest sequel is something focused on new characters altogether with small/cameo appearances by Franco and Williams, or maybe something focusing on Weisz's character. Having a "Dorothy Gale" character runs them potentially afoul of MGM.

  6. Lou W2:41 PM

    Why in the world didn't they get The Wizard of Oz license? They'll have spent >$200M on the film, couldn't they have found a way to pay enough to make it a 'true' sequel to the 1939 film? [aside: copyright runs too damn long.]

    I saw Wicked in NYC with my kids two weeks ago. They absolutely loved it, even more than I expected, and wanted to go see the new movie immediately. But once I explained that it was a completely different take on the pre-WoO events, they became much less interested. They like the version where the Witch is good and the Wizard is bad. :)

  7. While there's probably a price, MGM is very very protective of Wizard of Oz, because it and the associated merchandising continues to be a very solid revenue stream on an ongoing basis ("Over the Rainbow" alone brings in solid money, I'd expect).

    There's also the issue with Disney not wanting to endanger its existing rights--Wizard of Oz images from the 1939 film are an organic part of the Great Movie Ride at Disney World, and they'd have to shut down the ride entirely to take them out.

  8. Tosy and Cosh2:56 PM

    Can you explain for the layman how a "Dorothy Gale" character could cause problems with MGM? I understand the new elements they created as being protected (songs, ruby slippers, specific designs), but isn't the character of Dorothy in the public domain? Just like Oz himself?

  9. There's a weird case out of the Eighth Circuit in which MGM won:

    A similar mess is presented by Sherlock Holmes, where 80+% of the canon is in the public domain, but the final few stories are not. Is the character in the public domain or not?

  10. I haven't seen the new movie, but I would definitely go see a movie in which Mandy Patinkin played a Wizard of Oz with all the world-weariness and intelligence of Saul Berenson.

  11. Jordan4:33 PM

    But they do have the rights to the steampunk robot, the hall of severed heads, the wheelers (beware the wheelers), the flying stuffed-moose's head couch thing, the straight up traumatizing pumpkinhead, the talking chicken...WHY DID MY PARENTS LET ME SEE THIS MOVIE?

  12. Heather K8:04 PM

    I think I would like Anna Kendrick more as Galinda. Kristin Bell as Galinda would be good too and even though she is a bit older, she still looks really young.

  13. The tricky thing with Galinda is that the part as written calls for someone with a very very high operatic soprano. Now, they can do a lot of digital wizardry with voice, but I'm not sure they're going to be able to go quite that far.

    FWIW, both Laura Bell Bundy and Megan Hilty were Galinda replacements on Broadway. Neither is big enough on their own, but if they went with a big name as Elphaba, maybe.

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  15. Genevieve1:22 AM

    Those are all straight from the book!! The shock treatments I hear they give Dorothy, however, are definitely not in the book. (I really have to see that movie.)

  16. Jordan8:59 AM

    Good to know! It's been probably 20 years since I've seen it, so I don't remember shock treatments (there were a lot of messed up things about that movie), but I do remember that the yellow brick road had been destroyed, the scarecrow and cowardly lion (who was a real lion) and maybe the tin man had been turned to stone by an anthropomorphic rock, and Oz was a wasteland. But I think the hardest thing to wrap my elementary school head around was that although this took place after the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy was a solid decade younger.