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#45. The Wiz - Review

The Wiz poster / banner

Oh my God! This is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen. The Wiz is an all-African American retelling of The Wizard of Oz, set in 1970’s Harlem. Dorothy, played by Diana Ross, is a kindergarten teacher who lives with her Aunt Emma and from what I can tell hates everyone in her family. Her dog Toto gets loose during a snowstorm one evening, and somehow a tornado (in Harlem) sweeps Dorothy to the magical spray-painted world of Oz. Except unlike the original where Oz is a world unlike anything young Dorothy had ever seen, Oz in this film is just Harlem. Sure everyone sings in this world, but its still just Harlem!

It is hard to look at this film without a critical eye, because it is really bad. The editing is chopping (even for a musical) and it severely handicaps the plot and pacing. The writers and director seem to solely rely on our knowledge of the original Wizard of Oz, wasting little time making sense of the story. The film’s villain is only mentioned once (I am not even kidding) until the “epic” battle at the end of the second act.

The Wiz film cast

The songs for the most part were ok, but the majority of them all sound like “Cheer up Charlie” and you know what that means: Fast Forward! Toto is a little shit in this film too! In The Wizard of Oz Toto is an instigator for sure, but still charming. In this movie he runs on screen for a few moments to start some shit for poor Dorothy, and then runs off screen again. I swear Dorothy goes 15 minutes in some spots without ever seeing Toto or even wondering where he is. Speaking of Dorothy, I hate to say it, but Diana Ross is a horrible actress. She gives the character of Dorothy about as much pathos as Ben Affleck provides his character in Armageddon.

Michael Jackson in The WizAlthough I am pretty sure I hated this flick, I can understand its appeal. It has real camp charm, and anyone who grew up watching it probably has fond memories (Beth). The set design, art direction, and costumes are really spectacular. They spent a lot of time and effort giving this film a distinct look, and that effort is apparent on screen.

It is too bad I didn’t like this film more; I wanted to enjoy my time in black Oz. But, without even comparing it to the original 1939 classic, or the 1985 horror sequel Return to Oz, I can tell you this is not a good film. It is a disjointed, confused, re-imagining of a simple story lazily given a fresh coat of “urban.” But, it has Michael Jackson playing the Scarecrow, so you know I had to buy it!

If you have seen and like The Wiz, I would appreciate it if you left a comment explaining yourself, and tell me why I am wrong or at least what I missed.



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Reader Comments (1)

Umm yes I will tell you why you are wrong!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps the editing isn't that great but come on! It's not made-for-tv quality. First off the tornado is more of a swirling wind/snow event and less of a Kansas tornado...you have to give them some room for wiggle here...how else would they get an inner-city Dorothy to Oz? And I beg to differ that Oz is just Harlem! You're too "white-bread" for this movie, I should've known that. Where in Harlem have you ever seen golden bricks, scarecrows, giant tin men, and taxis not operated by ANYONE (creepy - hello). Of course the writers and directors rely on our knowledge of the original story (in whatever version you prefer...book, silent film, Judy Garland film etc.)...what part of the original story made sense that doesn't make sense in this one? Please tell me that and I'm sure I will be able to clear up any confusion. And I fully believe Evilene only needed to be mentioned ONE time - pardon me but a gigantic evil slave-driving woman seated on a throne (or should I say toilet) who is eventually killed via flush only needs to be mentioned ONE time!
The most offensive part of your review is: "The songs for the most part were ok". Are you high? Those songs are brilliant! OMG, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horn, Nipsey Russel, Mabel King...come on! You are killing me. I have the soundtrack on my iPod right now and "You Can't Win" with the crows....and "The Feeling That We Have" routinely makes it on my running playlist!
I will agree that Diana Ross is a horrible actress and todo is a little shit. At least you agree that the set and costumes were excellent.
As you know, I did grow up watching this flick and I'm sure that plays into this, but I can honestly tell you that some of the sets/scenes in this movie work their way into my dreams for no apparent reason. The subway scene with the pan handler who had the puppets that ended up growing to full size and chasing the main cast...yep...those guys and that set always end up in my dreams.

I guess we are still friends since you admit that it's worth buying because of MJ.

December 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth Ritter

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