Oz The Great and Powerful, and the Search For a Heart

It is probably very telling that the most endearing characters in Oz The Great and Powerful, the ones with the most emotional gravitas and who demand an audience’s empathy, are a china doll and a bellhop-clad monkey. Because for all the many fanciful things in this new Oz, a real beating heart is still in short supply. Even in the visually impressive film’s more tender moments, there exists a coldness that keeps the audience an arm’s length away, even in 3D when those arms, along with freaky plants and fairy fish water, are coming closer than you’d like. This sterile — let nothing get in the way of the pictures! — approach seems almost by design, with acting straight out of the early 20th-century, when silent films gave way to talkies, and an utter lack of on-screen chemistry between the players. At times, I thought I was watching an over-the-top SNL sketch and not a big budget Disney film. Disappointing doesn’t quite sum it up.

And then there is the sex. No, not actual sex, but the heavy-handed overtone of a stone-cold philanderer title character openly and deceitful attempting to score with a handful of women in the course of what amounts to a single day in Kansas & Oz combined. I have no desire to put a daytime soap opera story arc in front of my young girls, because I remained steadfastly uninterested in rushing them through their one and only childhood. We’ll stick with the original Emerald City instead, the one with Dorothy and Toto, a successful quest to find a heart, and without a single cheap pick-up line, because there is authentic magic and joy in that one.

I do not listen to pop music for the beat alone. I need and demand there to be an identifiable soul, meaning, & beauty in the words and in the way those words are delivered. To that end, Oz The Great and Powerful is akin to a hit song with a slick backbeat but with gibberish nonsense for lyrics. Sure, it sounds gorgeous with the top rolled down on the highway, but for what? There is so little here, so little emotion, joy, and soul that you leave the theater nonplussed at best, even if you and your kids get through the tedious b&w opening.

I wanted so badly to like Oz The Great and Powerful, having been teased and excited by the poster art and dramatic trailers for what seems like the better part of a year. But in the end, I was left ice cold and will not be taking my family to see it in the theater.

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