It’s hard to remember sometimes that the original Wizard of Oz was not a Disney movie — something that led to a number of changes, as The New York Times noted, to avoid legal issues. In the decades since that movie became popular, Disney has become synonymous with feel-good movies infused with visual magic — which is a spot-on description of Oz the Great and Powerful.
It is not a movie that is going to blow you away with the complexity of its plot, any more than the original Wizard was. It kind of wanders at the beginning and has only a handful of twists, none of which will leave you breathless. The star here is as much the technology — computer animation and 3D — as it was when the original Wizard helped introduce Technicolor.
Not that the human stars do poorly. James Franco is a charming con man filled with self-doubt, and Michelle Williams plays Glinda as a good witch with just enough idealism to believe in the “wizard” and just enough savvy to help him in his greatest trick. Mila Kunis manages one of the more abrupt character changes in the movie without it being too jarring.
But this is a mostly a story about Oz and how it came to be the way it was when we saw it for the first time, creating by a different studio in a different era. It might not have technically been a Disney movie, but it was the kind of movie Disney became famous for — and, while not as great as the original, Oz the Great and Powerful is a worth addition to that tradition.