Review: Is Diana Ross’ ‘The Wiz’ with Michael Jackson Really Worth the Hype?

Magical tornadoes? Check. Land of Oz? Check. Welcome to “The Wiz,” a Broadway musical turned into a groundbreaking movie musical. While it doesn’t quite rival the beloved 1939 Judy Garland version (let’s face it, what could?), it offers a fresh take on the timeless tale that’s slick, energetic, and undeniably fun.

Setting the Stage

Directed by Sidney Lumet, “The Wiz” transports us to present-day New York City, with imaginative sets reminiscent of Harlem, Coney Island, and more. Our protagonist, Dorothy, takes on a new identity as a twenty-four-year-old black schoolteacher, portrayed with wide-eyed innocence by Diana Ross in her signature white frock.

Suspending Disbelief

Critics may nitpick about credibility, but “The Wiz” asks us to suspend disbelief and delivers, particularly in standout moments like Dorothy and the Scarecrow’s dance across the yellow brick bridge toward Manhattan’s skyline. While the start may be slow, the film finds its rhythm, whisking us into a world where graffiti comes to life and yellow bricks lead the way.

The Journey Unfolds

Joined by endearing companions like Michael Jackson’s Scarecrow and Nipsey Russell’s Tin Man, Dorothy encounters vibrant scenes in the Emerald City—a whirlwind of fashion changes, a thrilling roller coaster ride, and a gritty yet magical encounter in a sweatshop ruled by the formidable Evillene.

Confronting Doubts

As the journey culminates, Richard Pryor’s portrayal of The Wiz adds depth, revealing a character filled with doubt and complexity. While the songs may verge on cliché, Diana Ross’s powerhouse performance keeps us engaged, culminating in a poignant solo reminiscent of musical legend Barbra Streisand.

The Wiz: The Verdict

“The Wiz” boasts sensational effects, vibrant performances, and unforgettable moments, yet it falls short of capturing the timeless magic of “The Wizard of Oz.” Perhaps it’s the film’s attempt to cater to diverse audiences, straddling sophistication and childlike wonder. Despite its calculated moments, “The Wiz” remains a journey worth experiencing, offering a fresh perspective on a beloved classic.

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