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Wonder Park is wonderful! [MOVIE REVIEW]

June Bailey, played by newcomer, Brianna Denski, is a precocious and creative eight-year-old, visualizes and creates a model for a magical amusement park she calls, Wonder Park. One day while traveling with her math camp class on a field trip, she decides that the outing just isn’t for her. With the help of a classmate, she creates a diversion and exits the school bus and heads home. She takes a shortcut through the woods and what does she find? A place called Wonderland that has all the rides and characters from her imaginary place, Wonder Park. But things aren’t quite the way she dreamed of - and Wonderland residents look to her for answers.

Wonder Park is a computer-animated adventure film full of vivid colors and lively characters and it’s a See It! I like the fact that the genius in this story is a girl. Traditionally these roles have been filled by boys.

The story is busy. June deals with family issues, annoying relatives, a pesky neighbor, not to mention finding her dream landscape is actually a bit of a nightmare. Kids today expect intriguing plots and subplots like this film offers. The days of Bugs Bunny simply trying to foil Elmer Fudd are long gone!

As a parent, one aspect of the film troubled me: June escaping the school trip and then taking a shortcut through the woods to get home. That’s not recommended behavior. The target market for the film is kids and they can be easily influenced.

In addition to Brianna Denski, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Jennifer Garner, and Matthew Broderick, star and provide voices for the characters.

Wonder Park is rated PG for some mild thematic elements and action and it’s 86 minutes in length. Wonder Park is a See It!

MOVIE REVIEW: OZ: The Great and Powerful

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Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician of dubious character flees a well-deserved beating by an angry "colleague" by escaping in a hot air balloon. Diggs celebrates his triumphant getaway; but his glee is short lived. The balloon is soon engulfed by a Kansas-style twister. He lands in a strange place called Oz where the residents await his arrival. For it has been prophesized that a wise and powerful wizard would arrive, save the residents from the evil witch and would then become king. Along with becoming king, goes riches beyond Diggs' imagination.

But then there's the witches. There are the two sisters, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis); and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Evanora and Theodora warn Diggs that Glinda is evil and must be killed before he can ascend to the throne. But Glinda asserts that it is one of the sister who's really the evil witch. What's a man to do? In this case, Diggs has to prove to the residents of OZ that he is wise and powerful and worthy of their trust - and he has to determine who is actually the evil witch and deal with her.

In reviewing OZ: The Great and Powerful I have to acknowledge that I was never a fan of the classic, Wizard of Oz. So I am not surprised that I find OZ: The Great and Powerful the better of the two.

As would be expected of a Disney film, OZ is visual masterpiece with rich and vibrant colors which are enhanced by 3-D. The story is an entertaining mix of the old from the classic, and new storylines. There is a steady and undeniable sexual tension between Diggs and each of the three witches throughout the film. The cast is strong. Franco does an exceptional job playing the sneaky but likeable Diggs. Rachel Weisz is fascinating as Evanora.

OZ: The Great and Powerful receives a "B" grade for its cast diversity. Bill Cobbs plays a pivotal role as the Master Tinkerer. The diminutive Tony Cox scores big as Knuck.

According to press reports, Oz cost Disney plenty: $200 million in production costs, with another $125 million in advertising and publicity expenses.

On my rating scale of: See It, Rent It and Dead on Arrival. OZ: The Great and Powerful is definitely a See It. Oz is Great and Wonderful entertainment.

It rated PG and is 130 minutes in length.

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