I rocked up to this screening expecting the usual preview crowd: mainly film buffs and journalists, a quietish bunch who just want to sit and watch a movie in an air of vaguely intellectual silence for a couple of hours, before heading home to write reviews about it.
Of course, I was forgetting two things:
– It was a Disney movie
– Some people bring +1s. Or in this case, +families.
The Empire theatre (nice big auditorium, insanely comfy chairs – I nearly fell asleep before the movie began) was packed to the seams, mainly with families. This concerned me a bit. I am not a huge fan of children as a general concept.
Once the film started, though, the ruckus died down and I completely forgot that anyone else was in the cinema as we were plunged into a beautiful technicolour Disney dreamland.
It’s the first time in ages that I’ve watched a 3D movie. The last one I saw was in the 90s, I think, at some kind of theme park; it took place largely on a boat and at one point the audience were squirted with water, and that’s all I remember. Suffice to say I didn’t have a good picture of 3D cinema in my head.
This one was nice, though. Beautifully designed in the way only Disney can do: that classic effect they have of creating an entire world, letting you get completely lost in the Land of Oz and its complex witch problems.
It’s a children’s film. As an adult, much of the storyline seemed a bit twee, a bit obvious: irredeemable man (Oz) meets three witches, must decide which is the evil one and work out how to save their land from the dark powers of the Wicked Witch before it’s too late. Along the way, of course, he learns all sorts of lessons about himself and about what it means to be a good person.
Pretty straightforward, fairly obvious, no huge twists. But it’s a good movie, in the strongest sense of the word: just sort of… wholesome. Correct to the core. In classic Disney style, it’s about people coming together to achieve something that one person couldn’t do alone. About ingenuity and belief triumphing over brute strength. About the power of goodness, and how love can be found in the most unlikely of places.
James Franco makes a convincing young joker who’s suddenly plunged into a serious situation and starts to grow up very fast. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz both have a certain air of vulnerability that lends extra credibility to their roles as opposing sister witches in a crumbling kingdom. Mila Kunis… well. Can we just take a moment to dwell on Mila Kunis. Gentlemen (and ladies who are so inclined), it is worth a trip to the cinema just to watch Kunis slow dance in 3D wearing a rather well-fitting pair of trousers.
And now back to the child-friendly part of the review…
Finlay the monkey certainly deserves a special mention. Probably my favourite character in the whole thing, the little dude provided most of the laughs, some of the sadness and just a whole lotta love throughout.
Overall, the characters make the movie. It took me about half an hour to get into it, but once there I was hooked. I cared about them all and about their beautiful computer-generated surroundings, and wanted everything to be OK.
Which, of course, it will be in the end. It’s Disney, after all.