Blallywood Film Review: The Wiz, Revisiting a Classic

by on December 6, 2012

Every so often a film comes along that transforms the way the public regards cinema. These films are innovative, entertaining and, more importantly, have timeless relevance for generations to come.  These movies are classics. They always feel new and are usually so forward-thinking that they are worth revisiting as they often take on new meaning with each experience. Few movies more adequately fit this classification than The Wiz.

This whimsically dazzling and soulful reimagining of The Wizard of Oz stars living legend Diana Ross, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson and comedy icon Richard Pryor as the title character. Making movies of staged musicals is commonplace but few if any had the support of music giants like Quincy Jones and the backing of an entire movement in music- Motown.

The Wiz is more than a retelling of an American classic; it is a gorgeous and edgy reenvisioning. It borders the dangerous with striking symbology that parallels the struggle of being black in America and the concept of achieving the American Dream. It’s tackles countless issues like not being able to catch a cab in an urban city to dysfunctional relations between the black underclass and the bourgeoisie. Imagery abounds from urban sprawl and dilapidation to an enormous ceramic statue of mammy; and the stunning dance sequences are infectious. The performances, however, leave much to be desired. Ross for one, while magnetic, is completely uninspiring as the naive Dorothy.  She misses the mark on drawing us into Dorothy’s storyline, making it difficult for us to relate or even care about her.  Her elation is almost awkward, her fear is forced, and she reads much too old for believability.  On the contrary, her warmth is beautiful to watch and she makes up for acting edge with a golden voice and pure star quality.

Though most of the acting performances are subpar, Lena Horne is a glowing saving grace in the last 10 minutes.

Bold, fun, and poignant, The Wiz is too much fun and too important to dwell on the negative aspects. It’s a trippy and thoughtful celebration of all that is wondrous, thrilling, and ugly about coming of age and realizing one’s self-worth.

I have to be honest and say I’ve always had trouble sitting through the entirety of this film. As a kid I found it difficult to follow so I lost interest. As an adult the opportunity to watch it never really presented itself.  Fortunately I’ve come to my senses. Catch it on Netflix. B.



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