For the homonym TV Series, see 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 "Cow-wih-fohr-nyuh
" 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,
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:
- It's not a good sign when even Roger Ebert is able to notice the inaccuracies.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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:
- Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male: Haley's over-the-top reactions to Corey's harmless jokes.
- Adults Are Useless: Pretty much the whole driving point of the film is that every adult is either uncaring, evil, or incompetent: The kids run through half of Universal's backlot without being halted by the tour guide they're disrupting or caught by studio security (who should be much more familiar with the layout of the studio; they work there, after all).
- Broken Aesop: The movie stresses self-reliance and independence... but don't be afraid to pay some money to the Nintendo Hot Line to cheat.
- Competence Zone
- Dan Browned: Nearly every video game that's played for any length of time in this movie is depicted incorrectly. And this as Product Placement paid for by Nintendo.
- Determinator: Jimmy to a certain degree.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The father tries to run Putnam off the road several times in ways that could easily cause flaming wreckage.
- Excited Video Game Tournament Host: The most insane host in the history of organized competition.
- Fan Disservice: The old man in the blue speedo.◊
- The Gambling Addict: Haley's mom was implied to have been this when she mentions to Corey that "she had this little problem", which was how Haley "learned about Craps".
- Gamer Chick: A Trope Codifier.
- Hollywood Psychology: Apparently going through a traumatic incident gives you severe autism. Yeah.
- Hufflepuff House: Mora Grissom, the other finalist in the final round with Jimmy and Lucas.
- Informed Ability: Notice how the main characters are so hung up on how awesome Lucas is... after they've only seen him win at one game.
- WITH THE POWER GLOVE! He is truly a god amongst gamers.
- He also allowed them to pick the game of their destruction which in itself shows the level of badass that Lucas is.
- Inspirationally Disabled: Jimmy
- Jerkass: Putnam. He may be out to recover lost children, but 1) he doesn't handle with care (and acts more like a kidnapper) and 2) he actively tries to impede Sam (the father of the two boys) from finding them just so he can claim payment.
- Lucas as well, who sells Jimmy and the rest out to Putnam when it becomes clear that Jimmy might just win the tourney. Earlier, Lucas revealed to Sam and Nick that Jimmy and his friends are heading out to California.
- Karma Houdini: The guys who steal the kids' money.
- Ladies and Germs:
Video Armageddon Emcee: Well! Ladies, gentlemen, children, siblings, ANIMALS!...
- Large Ham: The aforementioned Emcee.
Emcee: Come up here, MY LITTLE BEAUTIES!
- Merchandise-Driven: It can give Mac and Me a run for its (sponsors') money.
- Missing Mom: When Corey asks Haley about her mom, she tells him that "she packed it in".
- Missing Trailer Scene: There's a couple of scenes in the trailer that didn't make it into the movie.
- Most Writers Are Adults: Most of the kids act more like middle-aged people than kids.
- Most of the middle-aged people act like kids. Does that balance it out?
- Most Writers Are Male: Coupled with the above, some of the obligatory female companion's behavior seems unlikely for a girl of her age.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Lucas and his Power Glove.
- Upon seeing the kids escape in an elevator, Putnam inexplicably screams "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?"
- Then there's the incredibly elaborate, high-tech Video Armageddon stage, with Serious Business alarms, danger signs, big steel bunker panels, massive screens, and all the other stuff that came with it... and Super Mario Bros. 3.
- Pac Man Fever: See main article text.
- Pedo Hunt: Played for Laughs in the infamous "He touched my breast!" scene.
- Pop The Tires: The bounty hunter after the kids takes out the dad's tires to disable his truck.
- Product Placement: The Movie.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "SO I GIVE YOU!... SUPER! MARIO BROTHERS! THREE!!!!
- The Rain Man
- Road Movie
- That One Player: Lucas.
- Totally Radical: Most of the film.
"I love the Power Glove... it's so bad."
- Tournament Play: Oh, how many ways we can pick apart this sequence.
- Walking the Earth
- Wham Shot: At the time, the reveal of Super Mario Bros. 3, which hadn't come out yet at the time of the movie's release in the United States, at Video Armageddon.