The Wiz (G)

Action/Adventure 133 October 24, 1978
By Caroline Palmer
In 1975, Dorothy, Toto, and their friends were definitely not in Kansas anymore. Instead, they were opening on Broadway, in an updated version of the L. Frank Baum story, with an all-African-American cast. The hit show naturally caught the interest of Hollywood, which in turn tapped director Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) and music producer Quincy Jones to transfer it to the big screen. Diana Ross's Dorothy is a nervous kindergarten teacher who has never been south of 125th Street until a tornado blows her--and her little dog, too--to Oz: a graffiti-strewn inner city where subway stations are menacing not for their denizens, but for their man-eating garbage cans. Dorothy, the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell), and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) "ease on down the road" looking for home, brains, a heart, and courage, singing and dancing their way through one of the most inventive movie landscapes ever created. Viewed today, The Wiz is a curious piece of late-Seventies cultural history, by turns an eye-popping triumph and a politically incorrect disaster. (The flying monkeys definitely disturb.) Still, Jackson is memorable, not only for his sweet performance, but for his pre-plastic-surgery appearance, and Ross ditches the diva drama to give her Dorothy an appropriate mix of fear and nerve. (Caroline Palmer)
Sidney Lumet Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Stanley Greene L. Frank Baum, Joel Schumacher Rob Cohen Universal Pictures


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