Category Archives: Sidney Lumet

The Wiz (1978)

Girl, do you know that you’re 24 years old, and you’ve never been south of 125th Street? Well, you haven’t!

— Aunt Em

I have only seen bits and pieces of African-American interpretation of the classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz simply called The Wiz. I know some of the famous songs in the films like “If You Believe”, “No Bad News” and “Ease on Down the Road”. I don’t remember anything else. I was surprised that Sidney Lumet directed this movie when I looked up his credits on IMDb. This film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1979, but it came away empty handed. I can understand why.

This version of story taken place in Harlem where the introverted Dorothy (Diana Ross) is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher living with his Aunt Em (Theresa Merritt) and Uncle Henry (Stanley Greene). During a Thanksgiving celebration, Aunt Em tries to persuade Dorothy to accept a high school teaching position. Dorothy is reluctant to move on with her life. She is comfortable staying in Harlem at the same apartment.

When she tries to take out the garbage, her dog Toto runs out of the apartment into the massive snowstorm. When she recovers him, a funnel cloud whisks her into Munchkin Land where people come alive from the graffiti on the walls. When Dorothy and Toto crash into the land from the Oz ceiling, she kills the Wicked Witch of the East, Evermean. She frees the munchkins from the evil reign of Evermean, who inherits her silver high heel shoes from the Good Witch of the North, Miss One (Thelma Carpenter). Dorothy desperately wants to go home. Miss One tells Dorothy to fellow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to find the Wiz (Richard Pryor) who is the only person that could send her back home.

Dorothy is left wandering around Oz that resembles New York City until she meets the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) the next day. He is surrounded by the Four Crows (Derrick Bell, Roderick-Spencer Sibert, Kashka Banjoko, Ronald ‘Smokey’ Stevens) that refuses to let him down to watch around his garden. Dorothy intervenes and frees him. She wants to bring Scarecrow along who wants to find a brain from the Wiz.

They find the yellow brick road and find the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) who was trapped under fallen props at an amusement park and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) at a local library front. They tag along for Tin Man to find a heart and the Lion to find courage. In order to go to the Wiz, they have to kill the Wicked Witch of West, Evillene (Mabel King).

I have no words to say about this movie. I was happy watching the bits and pieces that I have seen. This movie is over two hours long. It felt like six hours. I am not exaggerating. The sequences go on repeatedly for far too long. I cannot believe that this movie was nominated for any Oscars, except for the music. I thought the music was the only saving grace in this steaming pile of a film.

Judgment: Buy the soundtrack instead. Save yourself the torture to your eyes.

Rating: *1/2

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