The Wiz: Movie Review

Madden Rausch, Staff Writer


This story is definitely out of left field in terms of my content and ideas but I feel pretty passionate about it. This movie is a very interesting piece of film with the fact that is mostly forgotten despite the fact it stars the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. I am personally a big fan of Micheal Jackson with his impressive dance moves, and his songwriting. The movie he is in is called The Wiz alongside Diana Ross. The Wiz is based on the broadway sensation of the same name it took inspiration from L. Frank Baum’s book The Wizard of Oz. This version, however, stars a completely African American cast and takes inspiration from the funky 70s. This movie had a lot of potential so let’s dive in.

Movie Overview:

As the movie starts off there’s a well-apparent twist put into the script. Instead of Dorothy, played by Diana Ross, playing a little girl on a farm in Kansas, she is a Kindergarten teacher in Harlem, New York. The story plays out a bit like the Wizard of Oz does, her dog Toto runs off and gets caught in a blizzard tornado. The logic in that was not the best but it was tough to work that in to begin with. Why not just keep Dorothy as a girl in Kansas and it would’ve flowed better? Anyways, they land in this version of Oz, where it looks like a concrete jungle and Dorothy meets the muchkins. Who were freed after Dorothy landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, they were originally turned into graffiti.

via IMDB

Then they tell her to follow the yellow brick road and then run into the Scarecrow, played by Michael Jackson. After an encounter with the crows, they move on to the best musical number based on the song alone, Ease on Down the Road. This will be a trend, but there is a ton of wide shots in this movie that take away from the experience. After this, they go to Coney Island and find the Tin Man played by Nipsey Russell. He was stuck under some animatronics and sings about his plight, twice. One more time than Micheal Jackson.

The cast then goes to the New York library, where they meet the Lion played by Ted Ross, who sings about being cowardly. The next scene takes place in the subway with their

via IMDB

interpretation of the forest in the original Wizard of Oz. Instead, it is a strange peddler with paper men that rise up and chase them. They leave abruptly into the odd interpretation of the poppy field. Then, Diana Ross sings about a Lion being in all of us and then they get back on their travel to Oz. They meet the Wiz who tells them they need to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West to get their desires such as a heart, brain, and courage. This Wicked Witch runs a sweatshop and has a pretty fun musical number about it. She sends her henchman of Flying Monkeys, which is a motorcycle gang, and they capture them.

The Witch starts torturing them until Dorothy gives up the shoes, which she does not do, and instead pulls the fire alarm to make the Witch melt. Which in my opinion is very lazy. After the sweatshop workers are freed, Dorothy and the group come back victorious as the Wizard is revealed. He is played by comedian Richard Pryor, who gives them the bad news, that he does not have any of the desires they wanted. They find out that they had it inside of them and the good witch shows up and tells her to click her heels three times to return home. She returns home and the movie ends.

My Personal Take:

This movie, definitely had its moments but also had big bumps as well including casting and storyline. This does not have a resemblance to the Wizard of Oz or the Broadway musical. It did have redeeming qualities such as fun musical numbers and big sets. I would say you should watch it just to experience it, but other than that it was entertaining to see Michael Jackson in his first film.