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Thursday, March 14,2013

That’s enough, James Franco

In 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' the hero is the villain

By Ryan Syrek

At one point, our collective return to Oz (not be confused with Return to Oz, sorry Faruza) was going to see director Sam Raimi deploy Robert Downey Jr. as his titular wizard. The short list after Downey split must have consisted of just two names: James Franco and “a bag of dirt and sand.” “A bag of dirt and sand” must have had schedule conflicts.

Look, James Franco must be stopped. For too long we have been held captive by what we assumed was a dopey but charismatic grin but what is, in reality, the modern face of banal attractiveness at its absolute worst. He is a talentless, vacant black hole of suck, an ignoramus so gifted at ineptitude that the tornado featured here was no special effect but a byproduct of his trying to have an original thought. Without him, literally with almost any other actor, Oz the Great and Powerful would be a visual diversion and not a pretty cupcake with a turd on top.

The film begins in black-and-white in 1905, with Oz (Franco) as a struggling carnival magician and successful womanizer. His hot-air balloon ride deposits him in Oz, where he promptly meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch with abandonment issues. Her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), is the guardian of the throne in the wake of the king’s death. She claims that the land is being plundered by Glinda (Michelle Williams), an accusation the audience has a hard time buying knowing Glinda’s given Christian name is “The Good Witch.” With the aid of a good flying monkey (Zach Braff) and a tiny china doll (Joey King), Oz sets out to fulfill a prophecy about a wizard that defeats the wicked witch. We know where things wind up, the ultimate peril of proposing a prequel, but along the way there are munchkins, mischief and miscues by the man in the top hat too numerous to count.

Take Franco out and course-correct some wonky acting by Kunis, and this is a fine film that expands the Oz universe thanks to a script lovingly crafted by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. There’s just one other problem: It’s actually pretty misogynistic. Cursory research reveals that L. Frank Baum was married to a suffragette and was, in fact, the secretary of the South Dakota suffrage organization. The equality of women mattered to him, so his heroes were always heroines; in fact, the one male hero in his book series, Tip, was revealed to actually be the female Princess Ozma in hiding. Yet here comes a Hollywood adaptation focusing on a lustful wank redeemed with more lies. And that’s not what’s most troubling.

Three great actresses with three prominent parts? Oh, my stars and garters! But Theodora is depicted as a commitment-obsessed banshee; Evanora is the stereotypical “bitch in control” and Glinda, despite having actual magic, can’t deliver her people from bondage until a big, strong man saves the day. Dorothy’s water-chucking and wizard-exposing seem downright Gertrude Stein-esque. While promoting this, Franco opened the Daytona 500 by declaring “Drivers and Danica, start your engines!” That verbal miscue is pretty descriptive of a movie that sees women circling a man for no reason. Visually, it’s just nice. But Oz isn’t supposed to be nice; it’s supposed to be magic.

— This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.

Rating: Two out of four stars

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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This review stinks.  The movie is great, James Franco is great!!  Now, go reevaluate yourself and go flush the toilet.  


Hey, Stargazer! Glad you liked the movie. It always makes me happy to know that they didn't waste hundreds of millions of dollars and work hours creating something EVERYBODY disliked. I had a good friend once remind me that "every movie is somebody's favorite." I like that thought. I do think that Franco was totally wrong for the part and am sorry that you thought "the review stinks." I can only assure you that I did not write it while using the bathroom, so flushing was not (and will not be) an issue. Thanks for taking the time to comment!



Hi Ryan...  Well, considering James Franco most likely doesn't care what you think, we can safey remove the so called "turd" from the cupcake and send it down the vortex of flush with the tidy bowl man.  In reference to this being my favorite movie...nah. I thought 127 Hours was outstanding.  ...and guess who rocked in that one (no pun intended)?   Hint:  It wasn't the boulder.  Didn't see your review for that one?????   Anyway, it was my pleasure responding to your review...and yes, you do gotta love the internet.  Isn't Nebraska  by Kansas?  Darn, you must be an expert then.  Talk with you again sometime, and thanks for responding to my comment.


Nice ad hominem at the end there. Really strengthens your argument.


Yep, kind of like comparing Franco's admitted mistake about saying "Driver's and Danica" to his character in this movie. The point is, everyone has an opinion. The writers and directors decided to interprete it this way. Overall, it was entertaining...just enjoy it for what it is.


The only point of contention I have is the implication that James Franco is not a close personal friend of mine. I mean, he isn't, but I like to think of myself as someone who COULD be friends with a celebrity if given the chance. It's the sole reason I still subscribe to Yachting Monthly. But to the issue at hand: I love movies because they are communal experiences. They are cultural touchstones that people know no matter where they love, be it China or even my humble Nebraska. I like that we can disagree about a movie and share in that experience. I based my critique on Franco based on his not being the right choice for the part and based on his increasing body of subpar work. I don't know him as a person and my critique was not about his life or humanity. Just his acting work. Which I don't like. And I wouldn't like, even if he was my friend.



Ryan, nice to hear from you again.  Just to let you know... I am by no means a friend of James Franco, but am a fan.  I would have loved to have met him when he was filming "Oz" in Michigan, where I live.  One sad opportunity missed,  I have to admit though,  that I also do not like everything he has done, including "The Letter" or "Shadows and Lies" or perhaps even some of his writing.  P.S.  You need to find another magazine, beside Yachting Monthly.  Really??? Now, with that said, "Oz"  may have not been what you were expecting, and maybe you felt the role wasn't right for him,  but using words like turd, ignoramus, suck hole, inept...and that comment about his smile?? Please...  So, what was that about his life and humanity?  Acting is part of his life and he is fulfilling his Bucket List.  You choose what part you want to share in that.  Would I like to be his friend...absolutely.  I will put it on my Bucket List, which is nothing near his, but it is growing... .  Who knows, I may even visit Nebraska someday (smiley face).                                                                  Thanks for the conversation.