It’s hard to believe the same Sidney Lumet who delivered the blistering, brutal “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” this past year is the same director who gave us the safe, sanitary musical “The Wiz” three decades ago. But here, in a two-disc edition, is a high-tech reminder of a lo-fi film.
Adapted from the hit Broadway musical, “The Wiz” is another version of “The Wizard of Oz,” but with an all-black cast. Diana Ross, sporting less hair than you’ve ever seen before, is Dorothy. Michael Jackson, back when he was Michael Jackson, is the Scarecrow. Nipsey Russell is the Tin Man, Richard Pryor is the Wizard, and New York City is Oz.
Although closely following the yellow-bricked path of its source material, “The Wiz” is lackluster “ long on looks, but short on imagination. Everyone remembers the big musical number “Ease on Down the Road,” and little else. Even as a child, it struck me as overlong, overambitious and just a tad offensive; today, it’s all that and well past an expiration date.
But it’s not without its fans, who’ll no doubt be attracted by this repackaging, complete with an eight-track CD of Quincy Jones’ songs from the picture.