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USA 1978
Directed by
Sidney Lumet
133 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Wiz

Michael Jackson’s 1987 song 'Bad' was not about this reworking of the 1939 Victor Fleming classic The Wizard of Oz but the title certainly applies.

The basic story is the same - Dorothy (Diana Ross) and her three friends (Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as The Tin Man and Ted Ross as The Cowardly Lion) set off to find the Wizard (Richard Pryor) who instructs them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West  - but it is updated to contemporary New York, given an all black cast and entirely new songs. Why?  You might well ask.

Presumably there was a well-pleased audience for the hit1975 Broadway musical by William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls on which this film was based but given its all black cast why Sidney Lumet, who moreover had no track record with musicals, was chosen as a director, or for that matter, Joel Schumacher as scriptwriter, is anyone’s guess.The result offers no insight into the stage production's success

The songs are lack-lustre (although apparently Quincy Jones, as the film’s musical director reworked Small's originals), only “Ease On Down The Road”, an update of “Follow The Yellow Brick Road” has anything catchy about it and Lumet’s idea of direction of the musical numbers is largely to point the camera straight on and film the routines in long shot. Probably the worst decision was that Dorothy, now a 24 year old kindergarten teacher is played by the a 34 year old Ross. An pop icon she may be and actress she is not.

Overlong at best, pointless at worst, The Wiz is more of a curio than a musical of intrinsic interest.




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