Motown musical updating of The Wizard of Oz based on the hit Broadway show, starring Diana Ross as a Harlem schoolteacher spirited to a fantasy New York City. With Michael Jackson.
A hip, black, Motown Wizard of Oz. Diana Ross couldn't have seemed further from the concept of Dorothy: but, apart from being entirely the wrong age, she is unexpectedly excellent. So is the choreography and production design. The first sight of the Emerald City and scenes of Dorothy and friends dancing away down the yellow-brick road are all eye-catchingly successful. The ensemble scenes are mostly good too - especially Brand New Day - and the make-up for Tin Man and Lion quite superb. The script, alas, is the film's weak link and there is too much of it. A couple of acting let-downs are Lena Horne's embarrassingly posturing Glinda and Richard Pryor's over-the-top Wiz, but they are compensated for by massive Mabel King's splendid Wicked Witch; Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross are more than competent as Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Oswald Morris' colour photography is exceptionally skilful. The film's disparate elements can't quite fuse into a whole entertainment though; as Ross, rather than Dorothy might put it, The Wiz can't quite get it together. Nonetheless, this trip up the yellow-brick road has something to please almost everyone.