The Wiz (1978)

What sounds like can’t-miss experience ends up being a disaster. A black version of “The Wizard of Oz,” with Brooklyn standing in for Kansas, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, with music by Quincy Jones sounds like a musical lover’s dream. But curiously, nothing seems to go right, from Ross’s unsympathetic performance as Dorothy, to underwhelming musical numbers that are curiously lifeless, and a padded running time that makes sitting through the whole movie a bit of a chore. Director Sidney Lumet seems enamored with the production’s massive sets and insists on capturing the size and scope in each shot, which has the unfortunate side effect of a stately camera and overly wide shots draining the musical numbers of their energy and intimacy. Michael Jackson is surprisingly endearing as Scarecrow but everyone else has a habit of fading in the background. However as with many other high-profile disasters, its mistakes make for a surprisingly captivating viewing experience.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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