Oz the Great and Powerful
Sam Raimi used to be a great director.
Raimi made a name for himself with the low-budget horror flick “Evil Dead.” He became a cult hero with the 1987 sequel “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.”
“Evil Dead 2” doesn’t sound like the name of a brilliant, visionary film. But it really is.
“Evil Dead 2” isn’t so much a sequel as a remake. A remake that improved everything about the original and created a whole new genre of cinema: the horror/comedy.
It’s not a horror spoof like “Scary Movie.” “Evil Dead 2” is genuinely scary and genuinely funny, often at the same time.
The great Bruce Campbell stars as Ash: an average dude who becomes a chainsaw-wielding warrior.
In the original “Evil Dead,” Ash is kind of a bookish kid and a reluctant fighter. In “Evil Dead 2,” Ash has somehow morphed into a cocky meathead action hero. When the Book of the Dead causes evil spirits to attack Ash, you don’t feel sorry for him; you feel sorry for the many evil creatures that Ash will inevitably slaughter in hilariously bloody ways.
Okay, I felt a little bad for Ash when an evil spirit possessed his hand and the hand turned against him. But this set the stage for an outrageous, R-Rated Three Stooges routine – with Ash as Curly and his hand as Moe.
It sounds crazy. And it is. But apparently I’m not the only one who began idolizing Sam Raimi after “Evil Dead 2.” Even though he had never made a blockbuster movie, Hollywood entrusted the director with the Spider-Man franchise. And Raimi delivered one of the most successful and beloved action trilogies of all time.
Well, the Raimi magic is gone. “Oz The Great and Powerful” is the family hit of the season but it is nothing special.
James Franco stars as Oscar (nicknamed Oz): a mediocre magician in 1905 Kansas. A tornado mysteriously transports Oz to a colorful 3D land that bears his name.
Oz learns that he is the Chosen One, and his mission is to track down a magic wand and to use 20th Century technology to defeat an evil army led by a witch.
This plot will sound familiar to Sam Raimi geeks. It’s exactly the same as “Army of Darkness,” the awesome sequel to “Evil Dead 2.” Only “Oz” has ten times the budget and one-tenth the laughs.
It’s sad when a once great filmmaker loses his touch. “Oz The Great and Powerful” has none of the magic that made “Evil Dead 2” so wonderful. Hopefully the upcoming “Evil Dead” remake (in theaters April 5th) is less disappointing.