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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Oz the Great and Powerful

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Michelle Williams stars in a scene from the movie "Oz the Great and Powerful."
Lush visuals and sly humor boost "Oz the Great and Powerful" (Disney), director Sam Raimi's 3-D prequel to the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz."

Like its imperishable predecessor, Raimi's fantasy adventure is based on the writings of L. Frank Baum (1856-1919). This second stroll down the Yellow Brick Road, however, incorporates thematic elements that make it unsuitable for small moviegoers, who also might be frightened by some of the spooky creatures jumping out at them from the screen.

Long before Dorothy was ever heard from—so opening scenes reveal—a small-time carnival roamed the plains that featured among its attractions the magic show of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a charming rogue known to one and all by his nickname, Oz. Off stage, Oscar is gifted at weaving romantic illusions for the many ladies who take his fancy, a talent that sometimes gets him in to trouble.

In fact, it's while he's on the run from an outraged rival that he hops into a hot-air balloon and casts off, only to find his escape vehicle caught in the powerful updraft of a tornado. As Judy Garland long ago discovered, transport by twister leads to just one place: the magical land that shares Oscar's moniker.

There, Oscar discovers that both his arrival and his eventual victory over the forces of darkness gripping the realm have been prophesied. His triumph, should he attain it, will yield Oscar the throne of Oz along with the immense wealth of its treasury.

But Oscar's self-doubt poses a stumbling block on the way to his promised destiny. So too does his initial inability to determine which of his new homeland's three presiding witches—Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) or Glinda (Michelle Williams)—truly embodies goodness.

As scripted by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, "Oz" emphasizes confidence, cooperation, the marvels of science and the kind of generalized faith in happy endings that constitutes Hollywood's offense-proof substitute for religion.

Oscar is, nevertheless, shown praying to God in times of need—as, for instance, while spinning through the tornado. And his stated ambition to be a great man, rather than merely a good one—"Kansas," he says dismissively, "is full of good men"—is eventually proven to be misguided.

There's even an echo of the Bible—and of John Milton's great epic "Paradise Lost"—as one character's consumption of an apple marks her irrevocable embrace of wickedness.

Yet several plot points, including Oscar's fateful ride in the balloon aforesaid, turn on his womanizing. The specifics of his love-'em-and-leave-'em lifestyle are omitted, as are the limits to which he carries his seductions. Even so, the subject, however vaguely treated, is not one that belongs in a picture for children.

Additionally, tots might be overwhelmed by the sight of grand-scale pyrotechnics and by such sinister beasts as the winged baboons who take flight to protect the interests of dark magic.

The film contains mature references, perilous situations, a couple of mild oaths and potentially upsetting images. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II —adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Gregory VII: The 10th century and the first half of the 11th were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. He was to become Gregory VII. 
<p>Three evils plagued the Church then: simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and things), the unlawful marriage of the clergy and lay investiture (kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials). To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer’s attention, first as counselor to the popes and later (1073-1085) as pope himself. </p><p>Gregory’s papal letters stress the role of bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots. </p><p>Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” Thirty years later the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.</p> American Catholic Blog In Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior.

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