I remember watching this movie as a kid, and I don’t know why. I’d never seen it all the way through, but I still remembered it vividly for some reason. Now, 20-some years later, it doesn’t live up to the memories I had.
“The Wiz” is an “urban,” modern adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” Set against a big-city backdrop, it is nothing but two hours of stereotyping. Dorothy, played by Diana Ross, is living with her Auntie Em because she’s afraid to move out, all while being pushed to start dating a well-dressed man. The Tin Man, played by Nipsey Russel, does a little tap dancing, while this movie’s wizard, the Wiz, was a homeless Richard Pryor.
I was expecting the movie to be directed by a white man, considering many of the “blaxploitation” films ended up being made by white guys, but the scariest thing to find was that the screenplay was done by Joel Schumacher. That’s right – the man guilty of putting nipples and oversized codpieces on Batman and Robin wrote the black “Wizard of Oz.” So it’s no surprise that toward the end of the movie when the evil witch is dead, there are a lot of half-naked people dancing around in skimpy outfits in a “sweat” shop in New York (that is, a shop that makes and distributes sweat).
Another huge letdown was the fact that this “30th Anniversary” release was nothing more than the $5 version you would find in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart. They throw in a soundtrack, but besides that, a new digital transfer and a very short documentary about the making of the film are all you get for the features. Granted, the movie as a whole isn’t worth $20, but watching Michael Jackson before he went “off the wall” helps. Jackson is no doubt the star of the movie, and his believability as the Scarecrow redeems this exploitative throwaway.