The Wiz (1978) Poster

(1978)

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1/10
There needs to be negative stars for this schlock
hishaj7 March 2009
Warning: 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.....
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3/10
Interminably dull and shoddy without end
jdennist1 April 2007
Warning: 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.

BUT...

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.
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3/10
The Wiz takes a wiz on the yellow brick road. It's smells like urine.
ironhorse_iv3 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Toto, I don't think we're in Harlem anymore. I think it's supposed to be Kansas, Joel Schumacher. This isn't a batman credit card, Joel. It's the Wizard of Oz. One movie that should have never been remade at all, at less, not in this way. The Wiz takes the source material and rewrites most of it. What a joke! This movie will angry both fans of the book as well of fans of the original 1939 film. It's kind of stupid in their attempt to urbanize it when the staged version of the Wiz had Dorothy in Kansas. The Wiz Broadway play was a bit better than this movie because of one reason. The stage version of the Wiz was big and well, pretty. The cinematography is pretty terrible. This movie looks like a nuclear war devastated wasteland of New York City. Dorothy (Diana Ross), a 30 year old African American kindergarten teacher leaves a large family dinner one night to chase after her dog during a New York City snowstorm and gets swept up by a cyclone. Rather than having bright colors, this version is mostly dark and gloomy. First off, Diana Ross is still old to play Dorothy. Dorothy is a preteen girl, not a middle age woman. Another thing annoying is that Dorothy afraid of everything. She so introverted, crying and whining, it's hard to watch. The first song doesn't have the same positive attitude as the song, somewhere over the Rainbow. It's more like somewhere over my black storm cloud of depression. Most of the songs here are depressing mediocre, and this was Motown known for catchy hits. Dorothy goes to see the Wiz to get home by walking the yellow brick road. She meets up with the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) who just finish singing with the crows from Dumbo with the song You Can't Win, You Can't Break Even. I just can't believe they had Michael Jackson, and he barely danced in it. So sad, all that talent, wasted. They didn't do any better with the song 'Ease down the road' with the awful camera direction. It was a good song, but lastly badly done. All you see is their backs in a far view camera pose. There is a lot of wide shots in this film that get worst and worst. They then meet up with the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) who sing like an awful William Shatner with the song What Would I Do If I Could Feel. Then the story follow up with them meeting the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross). All of them make it to the Wizard (Richard Pryor) who tells them to kill the Wicked Witch (Mabel King). Rather than poppy fields, we get showgirls tossing angel dust drugs at our heroes. Rather than flying monkeys, we get biker monkeys, and trash cans with teeth. Honestly, it miss the message of the Wizard by skipping out the reasons why they wish to see the wizard. The lion in this film shows more courage, the scarecrow showing more insight and the tin woodsman showing more heart than their 1930's counterparts. Honestly the 1930's Wizard of Oz isn't like the book too. The Tin Man was a bit a flaming narcissist, Scarecrow was an annoying know-it-all and the Lion was a bully. Dorothy was annoying shrew of a girl in the earlier books. She was very insistent, never wrong about anything, quick to disagree, pushy, and rude. In latter books she becomes more tame and demure bland, but still has her moments. Still, the Wizard of Oz is more open to a wider audience, and has the optimism charm that makes it popular. This movie is negatively a downer. The Oz sets looks like the dump, a lot of the songs are not memorable, lot of the songs from the play is missing, and some of them are not even in the play at all. The characters are not as funny as the Judy Garland version and lastly, the movie butcher the source material. I'm like the Tin Man, I have no heart for this movie.
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10/10
I Love this Movie
bibi-2525 November 2005
Okay...I never knew that other people did not love The Wiz until last year, 2004. I first saw this movie in the theater when it was released as a little girl. My mother, sister and I felt like we had been drawn into an urban fairy tale that we could relate to. As African-Americans, this was the first time we had witnessed a fantastical creation that had characters and images that we could relate too.

The singing, costumes, backdrop of New York city and choreography were magical. In fact, TV One just aired an all day marathon of The Wix on Thanksgiving and we watched the loop the entire day.

The Wiz provides the viewer with a sneak peek into the lives of Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Lion--all with some "SOUL." The cast of lesser characters are even more of a jewel...the crows--well, most of us can relate to the "crabs in a barrel" attitude that has plagues the inner city; Miss One--well she was a glitter bedecked "numbers runner"; the citizens of Emerald City remind me of the urban fashionista crowd...and the dance scene reflect the attitude of the bourgeoisie that you can find in any community of color in the United States; the Poppies--what a hilarious nod to the fact that often times, you don't even see women of color in movies unless they are playing the role of prostitute or drug addict; and the workers in Evilene's Sweat Shop...well, they are like so many of us who suddenly discover that there is someone beautiful waiting to come out of us...we just have to be free enough to be comfortable in our own skin.

OK. You get the picture...I love this movie. And so many others that I know do too. I am thankful that I can now share The Wiz with my own children.
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4/10
Kill Me Now.
lambiepie-228 February 2004
Warning: 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 kid.

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.
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2/10
A terrible adaptation.
soyarra27 April 2007
The original Broadway production of "The Wiz" was charming and spirited, but this awful movie is an exercise in bloat. For one thing, Diana Ross is horribly miscast as Dorothy, a role played on the stage by teenagers. She's supposed to be 24 in this film but looks every one of her 34 years, and transforming Dorothy from an innocent girl into a neurotic, whiny schoolteacher just to accommodate the too-old Ross was a terrible idea. It's the worst sort of vanity casting.

The musical numbers are too long and way, way over-art-directed, and the choreography is completely pedestrian. The only person who shines in the whole film is the young Michael Jackson, looking cute and normal in his pre-op incarnation. Other than this, the film is a definite misfire, which is unfortunate because the score is good and, of course, the story is very durable.
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The art of adaptation...
Morlock29 January 1999
Normally, I feel that it is a travesty to remake an older, classic film (sequels excepted). Profits aside, what is the motive? What is there to add? "The Wiz," however, is one of the few exceptions to my belief. Whereas "The Wizard of Oz" is more of a child's film, the intended audience for "The Wiz" is a few steps above that. Like its predecessor, "The Wiz" is both visually stunning and musically engaging. It compliments the seriousness of its themes and situations--both of which it has in more abundance than its predecessor--with a copious amount of humor. Seldom have I witnessed a more creative work of adaptation than that which is presented by "The Wiz," which is, of course, adapted from L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." A few others that spring to mind are "Logan's Run" and "The War of the Worlds." I mention these not because they were simply a good translation of book to film, but because they maintained the book's overall story (plot, theme, characters, etc.) while retailoring the environment and/or situation. "The Wiz" focuses on the "black situation." It redresses all of the elements from its source material to meet the needs of its revamped, modern, social subject matter. From the Scarecrow, who represents a pitiable, underachieving product of his environment; to the poppies, which represent drug addiction; to the denizens of Oz, who are ready to follow the latest trend just to be "in;" the story presents its audience with a generalized glimpse at the breakdown of "black" culture and society. Though "The Wiz" does not convey the same childlike wonder, magic, and fantasy that both the original film and the novel do, it translates those elements into more of an industrialized, mechanical, inner city playground. Unfortunately, albeit appropriately, the Oz we witness is through an older Dorothy's eyes. Interestingly, due to her advanced age, the circumstances that befall her must be harsher in order to invoke the necessary change of heart. Unlike the setting in "The Wizard of Oz," which exists in our dreams, "somewhere over the rainbow," the setting in "The Wiz" occupies our nightmares. The contrast between Judy Garland's Oz and her native Kansas is many times greater than that between Diana Ross' Oz and her native New York. The incentive to return home is greater for Diana--even though the colorful lure of a fantasy land is not present--since her Oz may be merely a preview of things to come (back home), if she does not start to make a difference. One of the few things for which I did not care was all-too-recognizable, yet modified New York as Oz. Though the entire film's art direction was brilliant, I found New York to be too distracting and too contemporary to be an adequate Oz. Another subject of distaste for me was the "end of slavery" segment after Evillene's liquidation. The song and dance were nice and full of energy, but the symbolism was too literal and seemed out of place with regards to the rest of the film. I could have also enjoyed a bit more denouement and perhaps even an epilogue about Dorothy's reunion with her family. Three interesting notes: 1) The landscape of Oz in "The Wiz" actually does change after Dorothy intervenes to make a difference; this does not happen in "The Wizard of Oz." 2) While Judy's visit to Oz seems to be concussion-induced, Diana actually appears to visit that fabled land, which is closer to the book. 3) "The Wiz" contains all four witches presented in the book; "The Wizard of Oz" only contains three. Though it seems rather dated today, "The Wiz" is still a fun movie to view, and it contains a number of known (Motown) celebrities.
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1/10
Ross: The Wickedest Witch
ellisonhorne1 August 2008
Watching The Wiz on cable, I'm reminded how, by the over-powering influence of one person, such a wondrous diamond was transformed into a mere gum-wrapper.

Diana Ross proves to be the wickedest witch in The Wiz by forcing her way into the lead role in what could have been a masterful classic of the ages, where Stephanie Mills could have brought to the silver screen the magical and exuberant star-power she achieved in her Broadway debut.

Without question, Ms. Ross's uncontrollable ego so contaminated the entire production which, aside from the outstanding art direction, choreography, and music, went far beyond the ability of any director to regain the life-giving power of such a legionary story Stephanie Mills could have inspired.

Ironically, it was fate that stepped in and rescued The Wizard of Oz from Shirley Temple, handing the key role to Judy Garland. (Don't get me wrong, we all loved dear Shirley, just not in this.). Whereas, Ms. Ross' intervention chopped fate to shreds, poured gasoline on the pile, and burned it by raging fire into oblivion. Alas, what might have been...
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1/10
Sleaze on down the road...
Merwyn Grote17 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
THE WIZ is a bad movie. It is a very bad movie. It is an extremely very bad movie.

To watch it is to be infuriated by just how much potential it has and how far it falls from even vaguely achieving success. A black, urban version of "The Wizard of Oz" is an intriguing idea. The musical score is okay and at least three of the songs are better than average. The budget was obviously substantial and a lot of effort was put into transforming New York City into Munchkinland, the Emerald City and points in between. But rather than being in awe of the spectacle, one is more likely to stare in disbelief and ask "What were they thinking?"

Sidney Lumet, a fine director noted for making small, dark and often depressing dramas (12 ANGRY MEN, FAIL-SAFE, THE PAWNBROKER, etc.), seems ill-prepared to make a big budget musical based on a series of children's books -- and, unfortunately, he proves it. I don't think he makes a single intelligent directorial decision in this entire film: the lighting is gloomy, camera placement consistently ineffective and the editing clumsy. His choice of soft, grainy imagery over crisp, clear pictures makes the atmosphere oppressive. The set design, art direction and costuming, while impressive, still look numbingly cheap and tawdry. Scenes filmed on location at New York landmarks look like they take place on cramped soundstages. The film is just plain ugly to watch.

Worse, Lumet seems to have directed the actors to perform in a soap opera style that is embarrassingly overwrought: the prevailing mood is of whining self-pity. Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross get in a few good moments as The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodsman and The Cowardly Lion, but there is not a single honest moment to be found in the performance by Diana Ross. To accommodate Ross, six-year-old Dorothy from the book (played as 13 by 16-year-old Judy Garland in THE WIZARD OF OZ), now is a 24-year-old Harlem kindergarten teacher. At 34-years-old, Ross looks more like she is pushing 50, yet displays the emotional maturity of a three-year-old.

Ross' miscasting is legendary, but her inappropriateness for the role pales in comparison to her actual performance. In rewriting the story for Ross, Joel Schumacher's screenplay changes Dorothy from being a winsome, wide-eyed child to an emotionally unstable adult. In Ross' dubious hands the character seems both mentally and emotionally retarded, yet she somehow manages to avoid making the character in any way sympathetic. Strident, always on the verge of hysterics, it is, simply put, one of the all time worst screen performances.

Richard Pryor fares little better. Instead of the lovable charlatan played by Frank Morgan in the 1939 version of the story, the Wizard is now a cowering little fraud, devoid of wit or charm. Why hire Pryor, known for his bravado and cocky attitude, then make him play against type? The filmmakers decided that this Wizard did not just have to be exposed as an illusion, but had to be humiliated and degraded as well. The scenes where Dorothy confronts and belittles The Wiz illustrate the mean-spirited cruelty that permeates the entire film.

The most curious aspect of THE WIZ is trying to decipher just who it was intended for. Obviously, the material was meant to appeal to children, thus it's strangely inappropriate "G" rating; yet the mystical, magical land of good and evil from earlier versions is transformed into a foreboding world of terror and despair. Oz seems to be an extended slum, populated by the homeless, vandals, hookers, bookies, druggies, various street people and gangs; while the Emerald City is a superficial place for shallow, pretentious phonies. While the tone of the film is juvenile -- almost infantile -- it all takes place in a seedy adult world that is almost prurient.

THE WIZ doesn't just avoid childlike innocence, it seems to hold it in contempt. Garland's Oz was basically a beautiful place where evil could be conquered with intellect, compassion, courage and the security of family and friends. The Oz that Ross treks through is basically an evil place; the message she learns is that the world stinks, so stop your whining and get used to it. The "there's no place like home" moral remains intact, but that has little meaning if the alternative -- Oz -- is seen as corrupt and evil.

In THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy's Oz is a dream world version of her own life; the Witch, the Wizard and her traveling companions all have human counterparts. This makes the 1939 film a personal story. In THE WIZ, there is no apparent correlation between Oz and Dorothy's seemingly isolated home life, the people of Oz and Dorothy's family have no counterparts. Garland's Dorothy escapes to Oz, but realizes the best part of Oz is already part of her. Ross' Dorothy fears Oz and ultimately escapes from it. The inner dream world of Oz becomes an alien world of media-generated stereotypes. THE WIZARD OF OZ is a fantasy; THE WIZ is a horror story.

Obviously reworking the basic story to accommodate an all-black cast wasn't done just to utilize a different style of music. As such, the film becomes a showcase for a panorama of African-American stereotypes, many of them negative. But rather than debunking racist clichés, the film embraces them. Sleep inducing poppy fields are replaced with opium dens, witches become sweatshop slave drivers, flying monkeys are gang members, Munchkins are graffiti vandals and so on and so forth. As adult satire, such imagery is understandable, if lame, but the film forgets this is still a story specifically aimed at children. Just as the film was rewritten from the play to accommodate the adult Ross, the material is altered from L. Frank Baum's books to make it adult, but not mature. It seems to be the film's conviction that to tell the story from a black perspective it must embrace a grim urban reality, basically saying that childlike innocence cannot exist because urban living, especially for a black audience, has destroyed such a concept. A sad commentary for a children's fantasy and an even sadder assumption about African-American life.

The irony of THE WIZ is that it is ill-conceived, cheaply melodramatic and relies on trite stereotypes; in other words, it has no brain, no heart and no courage. And ultimately it found no home, being a box office flop. And what could have been a breakthrough landmark in cinema ends up being a sad relic of political incorrectness.
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4/10
A Wickedly Misbegotten Mess Manages a Few Bright Spots But Not Enough 30 Years Later
Ed Uyeshima21 March 2008
It's a bit confounding as to why this legendary 1978 fiasco would warrant a 30th Anniversary Edition DVD, even though in hindsight, this elaborately conceived film is not quite as bad as I recall. That's not to say it's a neglected masterpiece. Not by a long shot. Directed by the estimable Sidney Lumet ("Long Day's Journey Into Night", "Network", last year's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"), the epic-length film is a regrettable misfire on several counts with its chief liability being a rickety story structure due to an early-career foible of a screenplay by current schlock-master Joel Schumacher ("Batman Forever", "The Phantom of the Opera"). The 1975 Broadway musical version was a zesty, all-black update of Frank Baum's original story that became a long-running hit. Schumacher eschewed the book of the stage version in order to customize the role of Dorothy, written as a pre-pubescent Kansas farm girl, for a then 34-year old Diana Ross, still riding high off "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Mahogany". Consequently, in the film version, Dorothy has inexplicably become a 24-year old Harlem schoolteacher with a severe case of social anxiety disorder.

Because the original 1939 film version of "The Wizard of Oz" is so familiar, there is virtually no sense of surprise in the way of plot. The challenge becomes watching a dowdy, skeletal-looking Ross react to her surreal surroundings in such an excessively naïve manner as to make Dorothy appear in need of a special education program. That leaves her three road companions to pick up the slack, and for the most part, they do. One can now feel melancholic over Michael Jackson's youthfully energetic turn as the Scarecrow since it is the only time his abundant talents have been captured on the big screen. He does his trademark spins and jumps in an exuberant duet with Ross on the show's most famous number, "Ease on Down the Road", probably the film's best moment. Comedian Nipsey Russell makes a likeably philosophical Tin Man, but it's Ted Ross who truly shines as Fleetwood the Lion in a performance that compares favorably to Bert Lahr's cowardly original. A rather hyper Richard Pryor makes a barely-there appearance in the title role. The women fare even less well. Theresa Merritt has just a few scenes upfront as kindly Aunt Emma, Mabel King does her blustery best to make an impression as Evillene the Wicked Witch in just a couple of scenes, and the legendary Lena Horne is simply wasted as Glinda the Good in static repose as she belts out her one number, "If You Believe in Yourself".

The film picks up considerable energy during the production number set to Luther Vandross' "Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day", but Lumet just doesn't know when to stop it. Like Martin Scorsese (1977's "New York, New York") and John Huston (1982's "Annie"), Lumet is a director out of his depth within the necessary fleetness of the musical genre, and the film's pacing lags over its excessive running time of 133 minutes. The one element that remains impressive over the years is Tony Walton's creative costumes and elaborate production design turning New York City into a surreal series of carnival rides. Most ironically, the World Trade Center is made over into Emerald City and the Twin Towers plaza becomes the setting for an Earth, Wind & Fire-style disco ensemble. For what is marketed as a special edition package, the 2008 DVD is surprisingly bereft of meaningful extras – a brief making-of featurette made at the time of production, the original theatrical trailer and a CD with eight of the movie's songs. The movie is a misbegotten mess with just a few forgotten jewels.
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