The Wizard (1989)

Released in: 1989

The WizardI remember the entire reason why I wanted a Nintendo NES was because of Fred Savage in The Wizard. Not only is The Wizard a classic 1980’s family movie, but it may be the very reason why Nintendo made it into the mainstream in America.

When Corey Woods (Fred Savage) learns that his younger half brother Jimmy (Luke Edwards) will be placed in an institution, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Corey and Jimmy decide to hitchhike to California, which happens to be one of the only words that Jimmy has said since his twin sister’s tragic death. While hitching, Corey and Jimmy run into a girl named Haley (Jenny Lewis) and together the kids discover Jimmy’s gift…Jimmy is The Wizard. Hustling kids in arcades, the three make their way to Los Angeles to compete in the “Video Armageddon” video game championship for $50,000.

The journey won’t be easy as Jimmy’s mother and step-father hire a bounty hunter to bring him back to safety while Jimmy’s father (Beau Bridges) and older half brother Nick (Christian Slater) decide to try and find the kids first. Jimmy meets his first challenge in Lucas, a gamer who has all 97 NES games and has never been beaten. The Wizard is an adventure for the whole family, and one of my favorite movies when I was growing up.

When looking back on some of my favorite 1980’s movies from my childhood, The Wizard always stood out as one that I couldn’t forget. The film was the reason I begged the rents for a NES, and it was the reason why I subscribed to Nintendo Power. Much of the appeal of The Wizard lies in the nostalgia and camp that makes it one of those classic 1980’s movies. Fred Savage was in his prime and ready to star in another childhood favorite of mine, Little Monsters. If you like video games or if your childhood spanned over the 1980’s I urge you to feel sentimental and pick up a copy of The Wizard.

The DVD is somewhat of a disappointment though, considering that most fans of the movie waited for years to get their hands on an American release. The video transfer was surprisingly solid but a 2.0 audio track really doesn’t cut it. Now it is time to talk about the special features, or the lack there of. The main menu of The Wizard consists of “Play” and “Languages”, which I was disappointed with because I would have loved to seen a “where are they now” type feature. Its not the special features though that make this DVD a catch, it’s the nostalgia and the influence this film had on culture.

The Wizard is a fairly influential movie for a few reasons. The Wizard was one of the first movies to explore commercial advertising opportunities targeted at young audiences within a film. Nintendo has a major role in the film obviously, as the movie is really about video games. Nintendo used this film as a catalyst to publicize the release of Super Mario Brothers 3 and the Powerglove. As some of you may know, Super Mario Bros. 3 became one of the most successful games in history and the Powerglove did not fare so well. This film is a cult classic amongst gamers and has had a petition for a DVD release for quite some time.

Final Grade: C+

The Upside: A trip back in time, when Nintendo owned the population of 17 and under American kids

The Downside: Cheesy dialogue like “I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad” or “Hey, it’s the wizard! I hope you don’t get nervous like last time. We wouldn’t want you to…’wiz’ on someone!”

On the Side: Near the end of the movie, at Video Armageddon, if you look very closely at Lucas’s friends you will see a very young mullet-sporting Tobey Maguire. Go Spidey!

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