For one thing I think he showed remarkable restraint with the use of CGI and 3-D, so that when you got to a real OOOOOHHHH-AAAAAAHHHH effect, it had a lot of impact, rather than just flooding the screen with stuff a la Avatar. Obviously we were waiting for the color reveal, but even that transition was carefully measured.
The CGI on the doll and the Finley monkey was incredibly well done. The facial expressions on the monkey were brilliant and James Franco's green-screen work was spectacular, so the effect of him interacting with the doll and Finley was perfect. I realize that there was a lot of constraint in what they could allude to from the 1939 movie, but I think that might have helped. The Kansas stuff was both cinematically believable Kansas without necessarily being Dorothy's Kansas.
Zach Braff actually managed to be considerably less annoying than I would have expected from the promo. Finley was not present during a lot of the last third, which I appreciated, and allowed his part in the last few scenes to have more impact.
James Franco isn't an actor I have strong feelings about, but I think he was a good choice. Since I'm not generally a massive fan of redemption stories, I think he managed to be just caddish enough in his Oz days without being either deliciously attractive or enough of a total bastard that I would resent the inevitable trajectory toward goodness. I know that's a bit convoluted, but those of you who know how much I love my bastards will understand.
The reason I thought I wouldn't like the movie was both the redemption story and just a sense of "Oh great, another retake on a classic fantasy re-done with modern snark." The snark level was just right and as I said, the redemption wasn't as bad as it could have been. What I didn't know was that I was supposed to be all pissy about the movie from a feminist perspective. I was told that afterwards and I was like, HUH?
I don't think it's completely inappropriate to have a sexual betrayal trigger a turn to evil and it actually works with subtext of the MGM movie which is about the terrors of a woman's sexual maturity (especially in a repressive environment) and how threatening it is to the adult females around her. It's as plausible an interpretation as the whole thing being about the gold standard and William Jennings Bryan.
All the women were beautiful and fierce although every time Michele Williams was on screen I kept thinking it was Mira Sorvino.
So yeah, not half bad, and let me say again MUCH better than Alice.