Film: The Wizard

For the homonym TV Series, see The Wizard.

The Wizard is a 1989 film starring Fred Savage, Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater, and Beau Bridges. It is about Jimmy, a young boy who suffers from a serious mental disorder reminiscent of Hollywood Autism after a traumatic incident. After being put in an institution, Corey (Savage), one of his older brothers, breaks him out. They decide to run away to "Cawwwifffohneeeyaaaa" together, as Jimmy is for some reason fixated on the place.

Along the way, they meet with some other kids that eerily seem to lack parental supervision. They also learn that Jimmy is a godlike entity around video games. Meanwhile, the concerned mother of the runaway kids hires a sleazy private detective named Putnam to track them down. Also trying to get to them are their father Sam (Bridges) and eldest brother Nick (Slater), resulting in rivalry between them and Putnam.

But none of this is what the movie is well-known for. The film is a fairly blatant Merchandise-Driven affair, made to sell Nintendo products and the Universal Studios tour. In fact, much of the film's initial appeal was that it had a sneak peek of Super Mario Bros. 3 (for North America; it had been available in Japan for more than a year).

The film maintains a cult following within the video game culture based on its Snark Bait potential. Analyzing the film is a senior thesis of its own, but some of the major issues include the following:

  1. It's not a good sign when even Roger Ebert is able to notice the inaccuracies.
  2. Most (though not all) of the arcade machines are Playchoice 10 units, which were little more than NES games in an arcade cabinet. People still come across these units in stores today. It's unknown whether grown men gambled money on them, though. This ain't exactly pachinko.
  3. Lucas and his infamous line, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad". Anybody who has ever used one of those will tell you that there is no way you can utilize it with that level of skill. Not to mention that "bad" has taken on a different connotation with regards to the Power Glove.
  4. During the tournament, Jimmy inexplicably uncovers the World 1 Warp Zone Whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the least intuitive shortcuts in any game, on his very first try. How is this kid supposed to figure out that you're supposed to fly over the top of the ceiling and then go into a door that you can't even see? And why would he even risk it, given that he's in a competition?

Still, it's a fairly popular Sunday afternoon TV recycle amongst younger kids who aren't familiar with Nintendo's heyday. Or who don't know any better (or even those who do). Given the utter glee that we still put into referencing/mocking it more than two decades later, it was worth every dime Nintendo put into it.

This film provides examples of: