Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz
(PG. 127 min.)
“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it within himself.” Galileo Galilei
This prequel ushers in some razzle-dazzle just when we need it. What it lacks in the elegant song and dance lightness of the 1939 classic, it makes up for in moral complexity. And yes, I will say it and risk the eternal hatred of her legion of fans – James Franco’s Wizard is a more interesting lead than Judy Garland’s sweet and simple Dorothy.
Yes, like Dorothy who follows him several decades later, Ozz, short for Oscar Diggs (James Franco), leaves black and white Kansas in his dust, riding a hot air balloon and one rockin’ tornado into the fantasy Technicolor world of a land that bears his name. In another hat tip to its better-known progeny, some of the characters from the flea-bitten circus in Kansas are reborn in the land of Oz as well.
But, as I said before, Oscar Diggs is no Dorothy, and that’s what makes him interesting. He is every bit a carnie con artist and lady’s man, pawning off enough cheap replica music boxes as one of a kind love tokens to every bit of skirt in his drab little world to get him into one heap of trouble. Mainly in the form of the outraged circus strong man whose muscles have been upstaged by Oz’s charm.
That’s why Oz (as we’ll call Oscar from now on) is willing to ride the tornado out of town on such short notice, even cutting off a meeting with Annie (Michelle Williams), someone we know is special to him. So special, even Oz knows he has no right to her. And that short meeting is central to the film, with the feckless Oz rejecting any sort of goodness Annie sees in him. He’s known plenty of good men, he tells her, and they have lead drab little lives, ending up with their faces in the dirt.
Kansas is full of good men. I don't want to be a good man. I want to be a great one. I want to be Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison all rolled into one.
When Michelle Williams later resurfaces as Glinda the Good, her virtue shines brighter than the jeweled Emerald City or its vast treasures of gold. Could it be that Hollywood is finally rediscovering the power of goodness, like the prodigal son staggering home after one too many reels of Bonnie and Clyde, Goodfellas, and the nameless spawn of heist sagas?
Dorothy had no meaningful lessons to learn in the land of Oz, except perhaps the pabulum about the grass not really being greener on the other side of the fence, or in her case, the nameless stratosphere. It was really her fellow travelers, the excellent Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man, who achieved self-knowledge.
Our Oz, though, is the one in need of some serious self-discovery. His companions, Finley, a cute wise-cracking flying monkey (Zach Braff), and a beyond adorable china doll (Joey King) already have their heads on straight, even if in China Girl’s case, her legs are in need of a major glue job.
And our China Girl, a pastiche of the fine fissures under her antique porcelain, manages to combine all the adorableness of Dorothy’s yellow brick road trippers with the perky savoir faire of Toto.
Oz’s task is more difficult than Dorothy’s too. No serendipitous death of the Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy’s spiraling Kansas house. All three witches are very alive when he lands, beautiful and charming as well. With inner goodness cloaked as well as evil, Oz will have to sharpen his perceptions. Along the way, the film accomplishes something else as well, as critic Catherine Green notes:
And Raimi’s film does what most prequels can’t — it makes the original feel more complete. Now we have a respectable backstory for the Man Behind the Curtain, one that shows consideration for the responsibility of advancing the treasured narrative.
And our Oz finally learns the real difference between goodness and greatness, as Glinda ultimately reminds him in a throw away line that makes the whole picture.
This is truly a film for the whole family. The flying baboons might scare some sensitive little ones, but for the most part, their shark-toothed flights across the screen – even in 3 D – are brief enough to heighten the experience rather than put everyone under their seats. Enjoy this new chapter in an American classic.
Take a little time beforehand and you can have a great treat waiting your little Oz junkies after the film. These cookies are modeled after Glinda the Good’s jeweled crown, and they are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Of course, we know you are a busy mom (or dad), so we’ve found a recipe that uses store bought cookie dough, if you prefer.
And for those who love to toil in the kitchen, I’ve also posted a link to a more involved gourmet treat, Drunkie Monkey Banana Spiced Rum Pudding in a Dark Chocolate Shell.
Glinda’s Crown Jewel Cookies
What you'll need
Sugar cookie dough (homemade or store bought)
2 oval fondant cutters, 1½ inches long and 2¼ inches long
Baking sheet lined with parchment paper
White cookie icing
Butter knife for spreading the icing
Clear decorating sugar crystals
White sugar pearls
Edible gold luster dust (check the cake decorating aisle at large craft and department stores)
Small clean artist or pastry brush to apply the luster dust
Gold foil candy cups (optional)
If the store bought brand of dough you use is too soft to hold the cookie shapes during baking, you can knead in a little extra flour to stiffen it before rolling it out.
How to make it
Heat the oven to the specified temperature for the cookie dough you’re using.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to ¼-inch thickness. Use the larger of the two fondant cutters to cut out a bunch of ovals from the dough, and arrange them spaced apart on the lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies according to the recipe directions.
While the cookies are still warm, use the smaller fondant cutter to score the center of each one to create an outline for the crown jewel, as shown. Don’t cut all the way through. Let the scored cookies cool completely.
Working with one cookie at a time, spread icing on the center oval and sprinkle on sugar crystals before it sets up. For a little extra flair, gently press a few sugar pearls into the icing along the edge of oval. Set the cookies aside until the icing hardens.
Finally, give the cookies a golden sheen by brushing the edges with edible luster dust. For a festive affair, complete the “crown” effect by folding flattened gold foil candy cups in half and serving the cookies atop the shiny semicircles.
Or, if you are looking for something for the adults and have several hours to spare, you might want to try this Drunkie Monkey Banana Spiced Run Pudding in a Dark Chocolate Shell. Here it the link:
Cooking Channel TV.com