An adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that tries to capture the essence of the African-American experience.An adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that tries to capture the essence of the African-American experience.An adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that tries to capture the essence of the African-American experience.
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.
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- May 14, 2004