Posted on June 13, 2018
The Wizard (1989)
The Wizard is a family film directed by Todd Holland. It stars Luke Edwards, Fred Savage, and Jenny Lewis as Jimmy, Corey, and Haley.
Christian Slater (Heathers/Mr. Robot) and Beau Bridges (Stargate SG-1/Masters of Sex) also star in this film for some strange reason.
The Wizard features an endless array of Nintendo adverts that are tied together with a story about a video game savant.
This film was also the film debut of Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man).
The Story (SPOILERS)
Jimmy Woods is a young boy with PTSD (or maybe Autism). His twin sister Jennifer drowned two years earlier and that makes him sad.
He won’t shut up about going to California, endlessly annoying his mother Christine and his stepfather.
Jimmy’s father Sam lives with his older sons Nick and Corey. Corey, upset with his dad, sneaks Jimmy out of a mental institute. They decide to run away to Los Angeles.
Nick and Sam chase after Jimmy and Corey, in competition with a sleazy bounty hunter named Mr. Putnam (hired by Bateman and Christine). They argue and try to prevent each other from catching up to the boys.
At a bus station, Jimmy and Corey meet Haley Brooks. They discover that Jimmy is ridiculously good at playing video games.
They agree to take Jimmy to “Video Armageddon”, a tournament held in Universal Studios (CALIFORNIA!) with a grand prize of $50,000.
The trio hitchhike their way to their destination, using Jimmy’s skills to hustle people for money. They eventually meet Lucas Barton, a popular but egotistic collector who owns a Power Glove.
He proves his skills and proclaims that he will also be entering the tournament.
Corey and Haley learn that the lunchbox Jimmy carries (in almost every shot) contains photos of his sister and their family. Corey explains that he and Nick are Jimmy’s half brothers and that their mother died when Corey was young.
The trio arrive in Reno and Jimmy trains on arcade machines, aiming to improve his skills with a Nintendo-sponsored montage. Putnam arrives and Haley gets him thrown out by falsely accusing him of “touching her breast”.
The children arrive at Haley’s home, a messy abandoned trailer. She explains that her late mother was a gambler and wants to use the prize money to help her dad buy a proper house.
Putnam arrives and tries to take Jimmy again. Haley summons some truckers to help Jimmy and they escape to the tournament.
Jimmy enters the tournament and qualifies as a finalist. The over-enthusiastic host announces that the final round will involve a new game, Super Mario Bros. 3.
The three finalists play and Jimmy falls behind. He wins at the last second by using the game’s Warp Whistle.
While the family heads back home, Jimmy spots the Cabazon Dinosaurs and gets his family to stop. Corey finds Jimmy looking at a photo of his family there.
They realize that Jimmy wanted to leave the lunchbox there in his sister’s memory. The film ends with Jimmy going home with Sam, his brothers, and Haley.
As the credits begin to roll, the song “I Found My Way” by Sally Dworsky plays.
The Wizard was “Product Placement: The Film” for me as a kid. Even at a young age, I was quick to pick up on the obvious Nintendo adverts.
The film is forced, poorly paced, and the character reasoning is completely bizarre. Jimmy’s obsession with California is annoying and his motivation could’ve been explained far earlier.
The dialog is a stilted mess that makes the film progress at a grinding pace. There isn’t much to admire, even if Nintendo is an interesting topic for a film.
Scorpion’s “Send Me An Angel” is well used for a transitional track. Christian Slater and Beau Bridges have a decent “B-plot” with them connecting over the film.
All of the child actors (except Lucas) were passable, even with the awful dialog (just keep your powergloves off her pal, huh).
Overall, this is just a mediocre movie with little substance. If you’re intrigued by the concept of a Nintendo themed film, it wasn’t the worst (that honor goes to the Super Mario Bros. Movie).
There isn’t much justification for watching it, but if you really want to check it out, do so at your own risk.