Us Rating: ** 1/2
It's got brains. Heart. And yes, even courage. What this Wizard of Oz prequel needs is more imagination.
Smarter casting too: A withdrawn James Franco can't quite sell himself as Oscar "Oz" Diggs, a small-time magician and con man in 1905 Kansas who gets caught in a tornado and lands in the magical world of Oz.
He's not really a wizard, you see, but the locals believe in his powers and ask for his help in defeating the Wicked Witch of the West. The candy-colored fantasy is essentially a story of good versus evil, represented by witches both luminous (Michelle Williams) and deliciously saucy (Rachel Weisz).
Yet, sigh, Mila Kunis languishes in a pivotal role (too spoiler-rich to detail here). And even with a dazzling, CGI-amplified yellow brick road at his disposal, Oz's journey yields no big surprises. Still, the climax cleverly pays homage to the original -- complete with a wicked witch flying off on her broomstick. If only the film could soar as high.