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The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, a period when international fascism was rising and it was apparently sufficient to explain a villain by saying, simply, that she was evil. But in 2013, that's an unfashionable explanation. A movie like Argo comes with a two-minute prologue explaining why the angry mob is so angry; the Wicked Witch was not born evil, she simply had a broken heart. Even Michael Foster, the garden variety serial killer of The Call is given a needless and easily discarded back story to explain why he only kidnaps, tortures, and murders blonde teenagers.

That these attempts to explain evil are so half-hearted and so easily dismissed—when the final showdown with Theodora or Michael comes, explanation and empathy melts away to give room for self-righteous vengeance—raises the question: Why were these back stories necessary in the first place?

The easy answer is that they are a concession to the forces of political correctness. But maybe something in us needs to be transformed or redeemed, something that longs for the killer to be unrepentant. That way, we can simultaneously exact vengeance and claim that we were ready to forgive as we have been forgiven.

The Family Corner

Oz the Great and Powerful is a soft PG. The flying monkeys might be a little intense for younger viewers, especially as they are edited to startle rather than truly scare. Theodora's transformation into the Wicked Witch might also be disturbing, though it is milder than that of The Hulk in The Avengers. There is some kissing but no sex or nudity to speak of, although the sexual jealousy encouraged by Oswald might be over the heads of younger viewers. The Call, on the other hand, earns every bit of its R rating. Several people are killed in particularly gory ways—stabbed repeatedly, set afire—and one character is tortured while under sedation but still conscious. There is a prolonged kissing scene between Jordan and her boyfriend, and the villain cuts off Casey's shirt, leaving her with just a bra for the last 20 minutes of the movie.

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