03/11/2013 08:10 am ET Updated May 11, 2013

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lies a Less Rancid Prequel

Any review of Oz the Great and Powerful that fails to use some variant of the word "wretched" is not to be trusted. A critic who avoids "queasy," "soul-chafing" and "aspartame" has almost certainly been paid off by Disney. It's conceivable that someone somewhere has taste just rotten enough that they can dodge these terms without being slipped a few bucks. But unlikely.

When your child is old enough to be taught the word "execrable," Oz the Oily and Insincere will have provided a useful object lesson. "Well, Virginia, remember that foul prequel nominally based on the work of the fine L. Frank Baum? You do? I apologize. But 'execrable' is how honest critics describe such a film."

"Daddy, what does it mean when a plot 'creaks'?"

"Ah, Virginia. Good question. Do you recall that fetid, barely coherent attempt to provide a backstory to The Wizard of Oz? How three tedious sisters were set against each other in a way that didn't make a lot of sense, but seemed to suggest that Absolute Evil was the product of being jilted by a slimeball you've known for less than 24 hours? You don't? That's okay. Let's just say that 'creaking' is what you get in the absence of 'screenwriting'."

Oz the Inept and Unwatchable may prove useful as a sort of low watermark -- a touchstone that you really don't want to touch, like Shanghai Surprise or Howard the Duck or Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. It's a gruesome exercise, but entertainment can be defined by what it isn't. Mavens will ponder Oz the Expensive for many years, in an effort to determine just which slot it deserves in the 100 Worst Movies of All Time.

"Father dearest? That irritating, completely unlikable winged monkey: was I supposed to be deeply moved when it became cloying and maudlin?"

"No, Virginia: the fact that you continued to respond with crippling irritation indicates that you are a human child, as opposed to a once-human critic, and that you are properly made ill by that which is saccharine and face-grabbingly horrible."

It's hard to remember the last time that a cheerful film inspired this kind of existential dread. I walked out of the theater with a shrunken regard for my fellow man (and was tempted to walk out much earlier, many many times.)

"Dad, I was under the impression that James Franco was not grating, and that Sam Raimi had talent. Also that someone like Mila Kunis, when projected into a world like Oz, would be wearing something other than tight leather trousers."

"Well, Virginia, life can be disappointing that way. On the other hand, these people may survive their inevitable Razzies to win a Satellite Award down the line, or perhaps even a BAFTA. This is improbable, but there is a small chance that their careers will not be sanded into dust by this abrasive travesty."

"Pater mine, is this flick likely to recoup at the box office?"

"That too is one of life's terrible ironies, Virginia. In the threatened sequel, Disney may well have the option of repaving their mangy yellow road with actual gold bricks. All because irresponsible film critics have failed to warn the nation's innocent families.

"Father, whatever happened to that charming Judy Garland person?"

"She's dead."