The Wizard (1989)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres / Traits: Childhood Drama, Children's / Family, Drama, Road Movie, Video Games
A boy and his brother run away from home and hitch cross country with the help of a girl they meet to compete in the ultimate video game championship. --IMDb
Todd Holland Todd Holland
Luke Edwards Luke Edwards
Vince Trankina Vince Trankina
Wendy Phillips Wendy Phillips
Dea McAllister Dea McAllister
Sam McMurray Sam McMurray

6.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: May 10, 2011
It's hard to explain to kids these days how huge Nintendo was back in the mid-eighties. I mean, you young folks have your Xbox this and your Playstation that, and yes, they are rather popular... but their popularity is nothing compared to Nintendo back in their prime. When was the last time you saw Xbox cereal? How about not one, not two, not three, but almost a dozen shows based off of Playstation franchises? Tonight's film upped the bar just a little further, being a genuine Nintendo movie. Now, it wasn't a movie based off of a single character or franchise - oh no. It was a movie based on the console itself. Again, you kids that weren't there just don't know how huge the thing was, and if you'll hang around on my lawn for just a couple more minutes, I'll go into detail about the movie. Just make sure you get off of it when I'm done.

The story centers around Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards), a young Autistic boy who just wants to go to "Cow-li-for-nya" for reasons that will be explained later in the film. His first attempt at running away from his mother and his step-father lands him in a mental institute, and this does not sit well with his brothers Corey (Fred Savage) and Nick (Christian Slater). Corey grabs his skateboard and heads over to the home for troubled children, where he helps his brother escape and the two take off for California. Along the way, they meet Haley (Jenny Lewis - yes, that Jenny Lewis), a young lass who also wants to go to California and who offers to help them in their travels for a piece of the pie. The pie? Oh, right. As it turns out, young Jimmy is a wizard at video games, and there just so happens to be a huge video game contest taking place in California where $50,000 is up for grabs.

Meanwhile, Jimmy's mother hires "runaway retriever" Putnam (Will Seltzer) to bring her boy home, and on the other side of town, Nick and the boys' dad Sam (Beau Bridges) is loading up his truck to bring his kids home as well. It's a race against time for our young heroes, as if either of these groups catch up with them, their dreams of going to California and winning the big contest are over. As if that wasn't bad enough, little Jimmy is going to have to go up against Lucas (Jackey Vinson), another video game expert with one big advantage: the power of the Power Glove.

Alright, let me get this out of the way right up front: The Wizard is a children's version of Rain Man, peppered liberally with Nintendo advertisements. It's corny throughout a lot of the running time, it has some of the cheesiest lines imaginable, and it also features one of the most awkward moments of cinematic history (a preteen girl accusing a grown man of child molestation just so the heroes can continue to play video games). Also, being that it is indeed a Nintendo advertisement, most of the film centers on Nintendo-era video games; therefore, if you grew up on Halo or Grand Theft Auto, the games featured here are going to look downright quaint. But you know what? For all its problems, I loved The Wizard as a kid and I rather enjoyed it as an adult.

If you look past the Nintendo advertisements, there's actually a rather touching story wrapped up in here. Jimmy has his own reasons for wanting to get to California, and they have nothing to do with video games. I won't spoil his motives here, but there won't be a dry eye in the room when all is revealed. It's also an uplifting tale of how a family can be brought together by actually listening to one another and paying attention to each other, and even though it turns out to be a Nintendo console that brings them together, the end result is still the same.

As for the Nintendo side of things... well, let me repeat that I grew up with Nintendo, and as such, it was badass to see these "modern" games on the screen as a kid and there was a touch of nostalgia as an adult, so either way, it worked out fine with me. Also, I have fond memories of seeing Super Mario Brothers 3 for the first time here, which is a type of experience that sadly no longer exists what with the internet and such. Imagine having to plunk down your cash to sit through a movie just to see the first few clips of the newest Call of Duty game, having no access to YouTube or the internet in general, and then magnify that by a hundred: that is how popular Mario Brothers was, and that is how things rolled back in those days.

I'll admit that the film is dated in numerous ways: the soundtrack is downright awful save for a song or two (as an example, New Kids On The Block gets not one but two song picks), the slang is cringe-worthy, and the clothes made me shudder. It's also not packed with award-winning acting. Fred Savage plays his normal role here, and personally, I can't stand the kid. Of course, he made millions on The Wonder Years with this same character, so what do I know? Jenny Lewis is awkward at best, and there's a reason that she took up singing as an adult instead of acting. Christian Slater and Beau Bridges are both rather silly in their roles, and Will Seltzer's character is so stereotypical that it hurts.

Still, even with its flaws, there is a decent story wrapped up in here, and for those children of the eighties, it is a guaranteed ninety minutes of nostalgia. In fact, I'm betting that it'd be nostalgia for the time when you first saw this film, as anyone who grew up during that time has almost certainly seen it at least once in their lives. Personally, I'm going with a 7/10, but if you didn't grow up on Nintendo, knock about four points off of that.
Mojokc #1: Mojokc - added 05/11/2011, 02:19 PM
I remember watching this movie in the cinema with Bruce and I believe you as well there Chad. Great movie and personally I would give it an 8/10 simply for the nostalgia factor alone. I remember all of us trying to guess what game was going to appear at the end of the movie and all of us desperately trying to figure out who the shadowy figure with the tail was. When Mario is finally revealed wearing his raccoon costume and the first few glimpses of the game to be our hearts raced and hyperactivity went through the roof with the "I WANT THAT NOW! I CAN'T WAIT!" fervor of youth. I guess were finally showing our age here huh?
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