Dorothy, a twenty-four-year-old kindergarten teacher born, raised, and still working in Harlem, is celebrating Thanksgiving with her extended family, but she doesn't seem to be thankful for much in life. She lives a self-imposed sheltered life; she is shy and unfulfilled. Things change for her when she is caught in a snowstorm while chasing after her dog, Toto. They are transported to the mysterious Land of Oz, where she is informed that the only possible way to find her way back home is through the assistance of the powerful wizard in the Emerald City. As she goes searching for him, she befriends some creatures who are facing problems in life just like her. In their quest to find and get help from the wizard, they also face Evillene, the equally evil sister of Evermean, the wicked witch whom Dorothy inadvertently killed when she arrived in Oz, and who may be their biggest obstacle in achieving their goals. Written by
It is not the best movie ever made. It is not technically perfect or flawlessly acted. There are things wrong with it, some more egregious than other movies, some less.
But here's the thing: The Wiz has taken an old, beloved classic of literature and rewritten it just enough to make it completely new. I was as absorbed...if not moreso...with these new characters, reborn into another world, so familiar and yet so unknown, as I was taken in by the original Judy Garland film.
Suspension of disbelief is a necessary ingredient for all storytelling, and the more fantastic the more imagination one requires to enjoy it. Diana Ross too old? So what? I thought she was marvelous, and I thought she perfectly portrayed Dorothy in this alternate universe. In fact, I thought all the actors were terrific.
The story of the Wizard Of Oz has been in my top five favourite stories of all time for as long as I have been alive. I include Diana Ross' The Wiz right up there in an unbreakable tie with Judy Garland's Wizard Of Oz. They are both charming and well told versions of a brilliant literary classic, and they both deserve their due at the top of the food chain as far as fantastic storytelling goes.
And I haven't even touched the stunning aspect that an all Black cast chose not only to make this film, but actually rewrite it enough to show the point of view of the lives of the folks who lived in the ghettos and inner cities.
Even today, Black actors must struggle to receive equal treatment in film. Back when this movie was released, accomplishing this film was nothing short of a mind-boggling achievement, and one to be lauded.
I suspect a lot of the bad reputation this film has gotten over the years, especially at the beginning, was because the inherent racism and sexism in the industry was offended that the folks who made this film had the temerity to do so with an all-Black cast. It's happened before, and I'm afraid it will continue to happen until we grow enough intelligence to finally put discrimination behind us at last, and move beyond into a brighter future.
This movie will remain one of my favourite films. I couldn't recommend it any more highly. If you are a child at heart, if you love good stories made new, if you live in the imagination, this film is for you.
Just beware of that subway scene. If your kids are young and/or easily frightened, preview the movie before you watch it with them. It still creeps me out when I see it, and I know a lot of people who still get nightmares from it. But it's one of the best scenes in the film, and a testament to how creative the folks who put the film together were.
52 of 79 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?