Oz the Great and Powerful: Franco Good, Elfman Bad
Danny Elfman needs to stop scoring movies. Immediately. I loved his work on the early Tim Burton films, but he went creatively bankrupt around 15 years ago, and all his scores sound exactly alike: the chorus, the trilling and flares, the screedle-dee-screedle-doo carny rhythms. The Danny Elfman Sound is as much of an aural movie cliché by now as “Bad to the Bone” or “Gimme Shelter.” It’s gone from great to monotonous to actively annoying, and it simply has to end. Oz the Great and Powerful, obnoxiously familiar soundtrack aside, is a pretty entertaining movie. Sam Raimi has a lot of fun playing with the limits of digital 3-D, tossing things directly into the camera and testing depth of field with his limitless digital canvas. James Franco plays a nicely sleazy small-time Kansas magician with big dreams—for a PG-rated Disney film, he’s about as smarmy as he possibly can be—who gets swept off to a land that is expecting him to be heroic. There, he encounters three witchy sisters (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and, most delightfully, Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch) and gets swept into a power struggle that sends him all across Oz. Even though he’s awash in CGI most of the time, Franco holds the soul of the movie together capably, even as he interacts with winged monkeys and little girls made of china. Does The Wizard of Oz need a prequel? Definitely not. And Raimi would be the first to insist that he’s not going to match the original film’s impact. In fact, Oz is at its worst when it tries to ape directly from The Wizard of Oz, especially in the movie’s closing scenes. But it’s charming and sweet and funny and mostly amenable to the source material. If only the score weren’t such a warmed-over piece of shit.