Friday, March 22, 2013

I Shall Blow a Fanfare

As a Spring Break gift, the Dean of my college encouraged all staff to take a 2 hour lunch each day this week.  Since I typically lunch with my husband and he was not afforded this luxury, it really meant nothing to me.  But, as the week wore on (and my kids wore my mother out), I had the idea to take a long lunch on Thursday, and take the big kids to see a movie.  I have been a Wizard of Oz fan since childhood, having seen the 1939 version with Judy Garland MANY times; and I can genuinely declare Wicked as my favorite Broadway musical of all time, having seen 3 different touring companies perform it in 3 different cities – 2 more on the horizon for the next 18 months!  Britt is as well, and we took the big girls to see Wicked 2 years ago in Dallas.  So, it was a forgone conclusion that the Weavers would see the new Disney prequel, Oz The Great and Powerful.  It was just a question of WHEN?  So, a two (or so) hour lunch on Thursday it was – and a complete surprise to the big kids!  We are not 3D fans AT ALL (especially since one Dream Weaver wears eye glasses and that makes it hard to wear the 3D glasses, plus it costs more), but to catch a matinee at out little theater, we had to go that route.

I went in with low expectations of the story, but HIGH expectations of the cast, scenery, costumes, make-up, set design, cinematography, and music.  LOL!  I really like the technical stuff!  And, since we have 3 elementary aged kids in our house, we watch the Disney channel A LOT, so I had seen countless trailers, as well as the little behind the scenes things they do between shows about the next HOT movie.  I am very pleased to say, I was not disappointed AT ALL!  It started with the opening credits, which were spectacular!  I am so glad we were watching it in 3D – it really added to the effects!  And the MUSIC!  I have been a Danny Elfman fan for a long time, and he did a fantastic job with the score – again from the opening credits to the last curtain.  And it just got more beautiful from there.  The first part is at a carnival in Kansas in 1903, and it is all in black and white.  But you can still see the excruciating detail that was taken with every scene, set and prop – as well as costumes and make up.  It was visually stunning!  Then, when they get to Oz?  Magnificent!  It was just so fun to watch and see all the colors and the creativity of the characters and the animation of the inanimate ones.  I think I had a smile on my face the whole time!  Except when things in 3D were scaring me, flying at my head, or causing one of my children to grab me as they were startled!  I loved it!  Visually, the move really had them mesmerized and drawn in the whole time.

The move was long.  We went to a 1:00pm start time, and we left the theater at 3:30.  The run time is listed at 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes), so I guess we endured 20 minutes of previews and commercials (which were all PG-13,and 2 were basically the same movie with different actors – about post-revolution futuristic America with space ships and aliens…  SO not my thing, but I digress…).  The opening credits were quite possible the longest I have seen in AGES, but they were so entertaining and delightful I was OK with it.  Then, as I previously mentioned, it opens with a black and white scene in Kansas.  That lasted FOREVER.  It was to construct the back story, but it was painfully drawn out.  I don’t know how long it lasted, but I would guess 20-25 minutes.  Could have all been covered in 10.  Once we (finally) got out of Kansas, and into Oz, the story ran at a much more tolerable pace – although the slow spots crept up several more times.  Honestly, what kept me hooked and paying attention was the visual aspect of it.  It truly was a superb movie as far as the sets, costumes, make-up, props and CGI animation went.  Quite charming, and stunning at the same time.  I had a little trouble with the writing as well.  This movie is supposed to take place during the turn of the century, but the language was very current and almost too modern-day at times.  It was as if they forgot what time period it was.  It was strange at times, and off-putting at others.  My favorite characters were Finley, the flying monkey in a bell hop’s uniform, and China Doll.  What can I say?  I am a kid at heart!  I also enjoyed the sour attitude of the herald and trumpet blower, Knuck.  I think James Franco did an amazing job as Oscar Diggs (Oz), and I loved how he portrayed his character.  A classic tale of a con-man turned good because of a woman.  I also think Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz were perfectly cast as Theodora and Evanora, respectively.  They were GREAT!  I had a little trouble following the story of the 3 sisters, since I have the other 2 stories in my veins, but I did figure out the hook pretty quickly on that one.  Once I could predict how the story would unfold and quit obsessing about how they were not Elphaba and Nessarose (Nessie), I really enjoyed watching them!  The power struggle is great and an exciting plot to watch unfold.

Now, I am a Glinda girl ALL THE WAY!  I like the good girls!  I love that Kristen Chenoweth played her on Broadway.  I love the blonde hair and the sweet, caring manor.  I do not, however, like Michelle Williams.  Didn’t like her on “Dawson’s Creek” back in the day – never have.  So, I was already predisposed to not like her as Glinda.  And it worked.  She was drab.  Made the character dull and uninspiring.  *YAWN* In this version of the story, there was a lot riding on her shoulders and she was under considerable pressure.  But you couldn’t tell it by the way she acted.  And of course she loves Oz, and that was prophesied in the opening black and white scene, so we all knew it was coming – like a brick.  But, I suffered through the performance and did enjoy the way it all worked out for them in the end.  Open ended for a sequel (2nd prequel?) for sure!

As for the kids – they are still talking about it a day later!  Jake loves movies. LOVES them!  Watches movies endlessly.  Quotes them tirelessly.  And he has favorite things from this movie that he has already worked into his everyday vocabulary!  The girls are both very skittish and easily startled, so they were “mad” at the movie for scaring them! LOL!  It was a very intense movie.  I would not have taken the girls (now 10) at Jake’s age (6) because of how jolting it was at times.  But, they loved the story and really got in to it as well.  Lara had the same trouble I did with the witch sisters’ storyline, since she too has seen Wicked and tried to make this movie fit with that retelling.  They want to see it again in 2D this time, and Jake wants to make sure we buy it “in case” when it comes out.  (That’s what he calls a movie on DVD that we own at home.)

Overall, it was a success for our family!  It was a GREAT break from the monotony of a Spring Break with nowhere to go, and it was a fun movie to see together as a family.  It had its weak spots, but my love for the Emerald City made it a must see!  There are some GREAT lines, wonderful scenes, and it was simply stunning to watch.  It’s also fun to see a new spin on an old familiar story.  (This story takes place 20 years before Dorothy hits Oz, so in that sense it is completely separate.)  It was a little sinister in places, and very intense in others, but if you have ever read any of L. Frank Baum’s works, he is dark and twisted.  I would recommend it to Oz fans, fantasy fans, fans of the visual aspects of movies, and anyone who wants to get away for a long 2 hour lunch to see the “Number 1 Movie in the World 2 Weeks in a Row”!

(Oh, and the title of the post is a line from the movie by Knuck the Trumpet Blower.  He was funny!)

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