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In Brazil this movie was released under the title of "The Unforgettable
Wiz" and this is what this movie is not. The black version of one of
the greatest book and movie of all time "The Wizard of Oz", "The Wiz"
Sidney Lumet's film is a very disappointing and depressing musical who,
again, comes to tell Dorothy's journey in a different and magical world
helping her three new friends.
Instead of a young girl Dorothy (Diana Ross) is a 24 year old woman, shy, frightened with the world and during a storm she ends up in the City of Oz along with her dog Toto. The rest if you know the story is the same: she mets a Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) without a brain; a tin man (Nipsey Russell) without a heart; and the Coward Lion (Ted Ross) who wants courage. All Dorothy wants is to return home and to do that she must find the Wizard of Oz (Richard Pryor) the only one who could possibly makes her wish come true. But there are dangerous in the yellow brick road too! Moving objects, the Old Witch of the West who wants to revenge the death of her sister killed accidentally by Dorothy.
Now what makes this film good to see? "The Wiz" is a musical that presents to the audience new songs to an classic story, typical sounds of the 1970's, a few good musical numbers and two great and unforgettable moments, the two first songs sang ed by Michael Jackson. And Michael's performance is fantastic. Not only singing but here you can see he's a method actor, playing the down and out Scarecrow. The Art direction and the costumes are incredibly great (nominated for Oscar) but Oz instead of being Oz is appears to be like a bizarre and altered New York City where there are five Chrysler's building and the World Trade Center is where the Wizard of Oz lives.
My concerns about this movie: It's very boring and depressing. 90% of the songs presented here moves in some darker issues such as fear, absence of things, "I want to return home" that kind of thing. Okay kids might not noticed that (when I watched this film as a kid it was one of my favorites) but the more experienced viewer gets bored easily by watching Diana Ross crying in almost every song she sangs. She was totally miscast and this movie end up her movie career (she only made two TV movies after that). Also the fact that for a musical it runs too long, tried to be funny and end up being over dramatic. Bottom of line: it didn't needed to be made and even Ray Bolger (the original Scarecrow) said this: "The Wiz" is overblown and will never have the universal appeal the original movie obtained." Right!
Lesson that Dorothy of the 1939 movie learned: "There's no place like home". Meaning = things might be bad in home but it's better to be there than be in another place else. Lesson learned by Dorothy in this movie: "Be brave, don't be too shy and go teach in a school for teen students where you're gonna get a better paycheck". If you pay attention in the beginning when Dorothy's mom says something like that and when Dorothy returns home you're gonna have that idea as the story's moral.
Sorry Mr. Lumet but you'll be better remembered by masterpieces like "Network", "12 Angry Men" and "Dog Day Afternoon". But it wasn't your fault. Perhaps the one who needs to be blamed of its failure is the writer Joel Schumacher. What he was thinking in writing a low and sad movie for kids? We're never wanna know! 3/10
Oof! THE WIZ lasts 133 minutes, and you can feel each one of them. While
things pep up for a few interludes--Nipsey Russell's two songs, Ted Ross's
"Mean Old Lion," Mabel King's "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News," and the
wondrous "Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice)"--this movie mainly just makes
one bad move after another. Leaving aside the hiring of Joel Schumacher to
write the screenplay, who thought Sidney Lumet was the right guy to make a
musical? He specializes in gritty dramas, and he turns this into one ugly
and depressing song-and-dance extravaganza.
Miss Ross is, yes, all wrong for the role. But even the moments when she might be able to wow us vocally are undercut by odd directorial choices. (Case in point: wouldn't "Ease On Down the Road" have been a much zippier number had it not been shot FROM THE BACK? I recently saw this movie with an audience, and you could feel the anticipation as the song began. By the end of the number, all the energy had been drained from the room.) Michael Jackson does a decent job with "You Can't Win," and it's nice to see his original face, but he's rather mewly throughout, and that gets annoying fast. And alas, Richard Pryor didn't seem to have any G-rated humor up his sleeve, so he offers little to the movie outside of stunt casting. (They could have gotten Bill Cosby and it would have made little difference.)
So while THE WIZ isn't a complete disaster, there's a lot to slog through to get to the good stuff. And Oz-as-New-York seems like a rather seedy place to visit. But then it's the pre-Giuliani Oz, after all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What one must understand is ... what a wonderful play "The Wiz" was on
Broadway. At the time, a tiny little teen with a LARGE voice named
Stephanie Mills took this play by the hand and made it spectacular. You
had to have seen it in New York back then -- and I did -- when I was a
Then came this movie. A stage to screen adaptation of the play that has a few good moments (all by supporting cast) but was brought down by the casting of Diana Ross as Dorothy. While this may make all Diana Ross "fans" angry - understand one key thing: Miss Ross was too old to play this Dorothy. There were plenty of those at the time who felt that way -- and when I finally saw this movie, I have to 100% agree.
I do remember the 'gossip mill' of this this like it was yesterday:
Stephanie Mills, the original Dorothy from the stage, was considered to do the screen version and Miss Ross was tapped to play the Good Witch at the end (the part Lena Horne finally did.) If this casting took off, the film would have been a nice bow to the stage version and the Dorothy 'part' would have been the young teen she was meant to be. Even if Miss Mills was found not to be "box office" enough (shrugg!!!), there were plenty of teens at that time to handle the part - and me it IS important to have Dorothy in The Wiz portrayed as such a young, inexperienced, wide eyed teen in the ghetto learning these things.
But..and this is according to the gossip mills of that time...Miss Ross wanted the part of DOROTHY so bad and she pulled her weight and clout...said she could "get" Michael Jackson (whom at that time was a hot teen singer himself!) to whom they were VERY interested in casting. The rumor was Miss Ross said in essence, no Dorothy for her, no Michael for you. And that would leave the executives, who thought Michael would be a box office draw, in a quandary. So here we have, what we have.
Whether this is true or not is for you to decide. But as I watch this, there has to be a bit of truth for it does pain me to see Miss Ross as the young ghetto Dorothy. Every time there's a close up, interaction of the part to the adults or dance number, you can tell. Be honest. We're not talking about a Shirley Temple vs. a Judy Garland age thing that actually worked, it was a baby New Year vs. Methuselah on screen thing. Fan of Miss Ross or not - and I am a fan - just not for this. This was/should have been Stephanie's debut movie role, and it would have been nice.
And not just to zero in on Miss Ross' casting, there could have been a few other changes as well that would have made this kinda fun as well...such as Nipsy Russell's Tim Man was good, but putting Richard Pryor there would have been a riot -- and letting Nipsy be...The Wiz instead. As I've said, there are other roles that were wonderful here - (Oh, Evilene!!!) and Lena Horne as the Good Witch are a delight to see nevertheless.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Wiz" marks a hallmark in entertainment history. An African-American
adaptation of L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz","The Wiz" differs from
1939 "Wizard of Oz" in that it is a racial allegory. It is a known fact
the 1939 film was a political allegory. "The Wiz" could be seen as a
commentary on the various components of the black experience. The thing
makes the Wiz a cutting edge film is its use of character to embody
archetypes and/or ideas. This is perhaps even more significant than the
itself. Gifted with an extraordinary cast, awesome choreography, and a
stellar soundtrack penned by Quincy Jones, the Wiz rates as my FAVORITE
The work that went into this film is far too underecognized. The most visibly striking element is the transformation of New York into Oz. I LOVE the Emerald City sequence.
* Possible Spoiler* The Wiz stars Diana Ross as Dorothy. In this version, Scarecrow is played by Michael Jackson, who true to the book is in search of brains. Symbolically, he represents the intelligent black male who is oppressed by his surroundings. Next, Dorothy encounters the Tin Man, played by Nipsey Russel. A dancing sideshow man whom Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet in an amusement park, he represents a dying breed of African-American showmen who introduced things such as jazz to a still closed America, and was eventually replaced by the largely white Big Band movement. Last, Dorothy and her new friends encounter the strong and campy Lion, played by Ted Ross. Ross' performance is perhaps the strongest in the film. Introduced outside of what looks like a library, the Lion represents one of the most enduring plights of African-American people. Strong in body, the lion is good enough to guard the assets of the white man, yet not trusted or welcome to partake in those self-same assets.
Of further significance is the late Mabel King's portrayal of Evillene, the Wicked Witch. Evillene represents the self-oppressive element of African-American life. Mean, yet still adorable, she presides over a sweatshop! And boy can this woman sing!!!
Lena Horne makes a splendid appearance as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Speaking in a New Orleanesque accent and surrounded by children, Glinda could be seen as a sort of maternal saving grace in the largely oppressive south. She could also be seen as the embodiment of that which Afican-Americans have always had to find comfort in during times of great hardship: family.
I love this film, and I recommend it to ALL. Though I am African-American, I recommend this film to ALL, as the themes it conveys are beneficial to ALL people.
Reading inane "review" after review here, with only a handful of people
actually knowing that this was an adaptation of a hit B'way musical and
acting as if it was just a remake of the 1939 film, well, never mind -
it's the IMDb, where anyone can spout off without knowing anything.
The film is terrible. Lumet can be a great director, and a terrible director and here he is firmly planted in the latter category. The casting, for the most part, is hideous. Everything that was simple and fun on stage has been changed for the film, from its NY setting (a terrible idea, despite Tony Walton's occasionally amusing sets), and it's all too damn big with no charm. Changing the play's Dorothy to Diana Ross as an ADULT schoolteacher is the worst transgression - are we supposed to give a hoot about her? Please.
It really is one of the worst adaptations of a Broadway musical ever. As to the people who "love" it I say only that there is no movie ever made, no matter how bad, that isn't thought a masterpiece here at the IMDb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This bizarre film seems almost like a gigantic joke; Diana Ross (who
was 34) plays Dorothy, who has supposedly never gone south of New
York's 125th St. (riiiiiiight); Sidney Lumet, who was neither black nor
a musical director, directs; the film features carnivorous trash cans
(!), a walking TV camera (!), an endless sequence of dancers in their
underwear (?), and Michael Jackson.
Admittedly, there are good moments; Jackson as the Scarecrow and Nipsey Russell as the Tinman are both quite funny, the songs are, all in all, good, and the sets, garish as they are, have an odd fascination.
Diana Ross is a terrible Dorothy. Ted Ross is a cipher of a Lion. Richard Pryor is utterly wasted as the Wiz, a loser politician who does nothing of note. The idea that Dorothy has never gone south of 125th is so dumb as to seem parodic. The idea that Toto could, in a flash, run outside into a freak snowstorm is silly. The ending resolves nothing that I can see. The film runs 134 minutes*, pretty long for a family film.
This is a sad sight, to put it plainly.
*No intermission, but there is a good break point about 90 minutes in. 44 minutes less misery.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Part of my rancor for this movie is that I saw the original play with Stephanie Mills. For the most part, the play was a truer adaptation to the original. I was thrilled when I heard the movie was being made...that is until I saw Diana Ross was playing Dorothy. I just could not wrap my mind around a 40 year old Dorothy and still can't. What really makes me sad is that the young children that see this think it is wonderful. I remember falling out laughing when they did a close up of "Dorothy's" feet in the magic slippers. Veins and tendons galore. They looked like turkey feet. Well, like a trip to Mecca, I plan to take my daughter to see the Broadway summer revival, so she will not grow up in the ignorance that Diana Ross is Dorothy. This film was wrong on so many levels, I would really be suspicious of a 40 year old woman living like a 12 year old. Ewwwwwwww just creepy all the way around. It made me think that instead of a tornado, Dorothy had been to the local crack house and when she finally came down, she ran "home". I cringe every time she squealed "Toto", and at the same time looking like she was weaned on a pickle. Just sad.....
Let me establish a few things at the start: 1) I love disco, soul, and
R&B, 2) I love the '70s, 3) I love bad movies, 4) I have a healthy
admiration for Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, as well as many of the
other luminaries in this film. All that said, this film is APPALLING IN
I knew this movie was poorly regarded, and I expected to like it anyway (I'm certainly not sorry I've seen it) but the ratio of potential to realization is like 100:1. I'm really surprised it has so many defenders on this site. Let's discuss:
Yes, many people have said that Diana Ross is too old. What's not mentioned is that she looks TERRIBLE! She looks like a refugee! Also, she just has the wrong voice for this part. Stephanie Mills had a strange, nasal voice, but she was a BELTER, and you need a belter for these songs. Poor Diana and her thin voice just couldn't cut it, and she had no physical charm to fall back on. Oh dear.
I was really surprised how lame the musical renditions and sound quality were. I have surround sound, and I just couldn't believe how muffled and distant the sound was. And, in my opinion, ALL of the musical performances were misfires. You could see how many of the songs could have been good in a good performance, but those just weren't to be found here.
Many people single out Lena Horne's performance as fantastic, but to me, like the rest of the movie, she was BADLY misused. Lena Horne is a nuanced jazz singer, so to hear her try to go all low-down gospel was rather painful, especially with her impeccably-enunciated "Woo! Yeah!"'s. She also looks utterly ridiculous.
I didn't get much of a sense of the old Michael Jackson we all used to love between the layers of makeup and the lack of focus of the movie and scenes.
I love how Dorothy alternates between being worried that Toto is out of her sight for even a moment because he is so precious to her, and completely forgetting about his existence for long periods of time.
Also, apparently the scarecrow's owner shredded the works of the great philosophers (or at least his copy of Bartlett's Famous Quotations) to stuff his scarecrow with?
And WHAT is happening in the sequence where the subway comes to life and attacks our heroes? WHAT is that? Also, the cowardly lion doesn't get much of a character arc, does he? One scene he's going on about how he doesn't have any courage, the next he's ferociously defending Michael against the saber-toothed garbage cans.
Now think about that: saber-toothed garbage cans. Hmmm.
I understand that during this movie our quartet go through tableaux of the issues affecting blacks in the 70's, fine... so then what's with the emerald city scene where the Wiz dictates fashion to the people below? Am I to understand that one of the major cultural issues African-Americans faced in the 70's was the tyranny of imperious fashion designers?
I was surprised that of all the things they kept from the original Wizard of Oz film, they jettisoned the device that Dorothy is just dreaming about all the people she knows, and at the end there's no "And you were there, and you were there, and you were there" scene.
I was kind of stupefied by how HUGE some of the sets were. Many looked like actual NYC locations that they has just laid a yellow-brick floor on. I would love to know if they actually did that, or just built these enormous sets.
Well, that's it! This film is not a total waste of 2 hours, but it is... quite an oddity.
--- Check out my website devoted to bad and cheesy movies at: www.cinemademerde.com
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For now on, films that I give a three star rating or under don't get a
long, detailed review from me anymore. I'll just breakdown in simple
text the many reasons why the film was a steaming pile to me in my
The vision: It was too dark and creepy. The cast: Michael Jackson was the only "okay" one. The rest were poorly cast. The acting: This one beat the original at being way over the top. Art Production: Too colorful with no creativity. Our Heroes: Michael Jackson's stuffed life vest. The lion looked like my high school mascot. The "Tin Man" should have been called the "Junk Man." Diana Ross look TOO old and haggard to even play a 30 year old teacher, let alone a 24 year old one. The choreography: the film's scale couldn't keep up with it in some scenes. And in others, it was way too underdone, slow and tedious to watch. The costumes: Most of the time, I didn't know if I was watching a Jim Henson production or something else. The bad guys: The wicked witch was horrendous, straight from the depths of anyone's worst nightmare. She died too easily and she was a complete idiot. The resolution: Rushed, unsatisfying, completely missing the point of the original book's message. Oz: It was ugly. The Wiz: A laughable cartoon. The subway scenes: Way too hellish. Columns breaking from ceilings with the Medusa hair thing going on, the orange creatures chasing our heroes, growing bigger on every step.
Wasn't this film made for children?
The best thing was the music but that's not enough for me to like this film at the least bit.
What must have looked good on paper turned out to be a case of bad
concept, bad design, bad acting, bad singing, and the worst
choreography ever seen in a major musical!! THE WIZ is so appallingly
bad in its execution, that it staggers the imagination to think that
anyone would think this film could make money at the box-office.
Worst casting mistake: DIANA ROSS as Dorothy, a one-note impersonation of a frightened child (although she's supposed to be a young adult schoolteacher). It's hard to believe she won an Academy Award nomination for LADY SINGS THE BLUES, so bad is she in voice and manner to suggest the Dorothy image made famous in the Frank L. Baum original.
The others are so fully disguised as to be almost unrecognizable--yes, even MICHAEL JACKSON as The Scarecrow completely misses the mark. Whatever laughs are attempted, they barely conjure up a chuckle.
The big production numbers are a complete mess, either too intricately staged or filmed at such a distance ("Ease On Down The Road") that there's no intimacy with the characters.
Lumet was obviously the wrong director for this kind of material. And of course he had obstacles thrown in his way by the miscasting of all the major characters.
A friend of mine used to use the phrase "Looks like two-cents worth of God Help Us!" It's an apt description of this God-Awful mess of a movie.
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