Film / The Wizard

For the homonym TV Series, see The Wizard.

"It's the dead seriousness of this line that really makes this scene immortal. This actor sells it like he's Hal Jordan gifted with this godlike artifact of immeasurable power, something to be feared and respected. He gives it the same battle-hardened, post-orgiastic tone as the classic 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning' line from Apocalypse Now."
Noah Antwiler on 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, the film's 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).

This film provides examples of:

  • 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).
  • Awkward Kiss: Corey and Haley. Also a Kiss Diss and a Take-That Kiss.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The first thing Corey does when he hears about Jimmy being put into an institution? Break him out!
    • And what does Nick do when he hears of his brothers having ran away? He goes with his father to find them!
  • 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.
    • The reason Haley's family is poor is that her mother was a gambling addict - so naturally the kids use Jimmy's gaming abilities and her own knowledge of craps to gamble their way to California.
  • Competence Zone: The child characters, and only a few adults demonstrate competence, while many of the characters older than the children are either useless, or childish.
  • 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: Sam (Jimmy's father) tries to run Putnam off the road several times in ways that could easily cause flaming wreckage. To be fair, Putnam did slash his tires earlier simply because he really wants his paycheck.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Haley's over-the-top reactions to Corey's harmless jokes.
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: The most insane host in the history of organized competition.
  • Fan Disservice: The old man in the blue speedo.
  • Fantastic Racism: Apparently a child being good at video games makes him some sort of mutant cyborg freak. On the other hand, most of the people making fun of him are kids, who tend to be cruel to people who don't act normally.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The structure Jimmy builds with toy blocks in the beginning resembles the Video Armageddon stage at the end of the film.
    • In the same scene, Bateman offhandedly wonders what Jimmy keeps inside the lunchbox he always carries. Midway through the film, we see that it contains pictures of his dead twin sister.
  • 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: Haley is a Trope Codifier. Mora, the geeky girl in the final round, also qualifies.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: This movie contains a surprising amount of profanity for a movie promoting Nintendo. At one point, after intentionally ramming into his car, Sam calls Putnam "chicken shit."
    • When Haley defiantly states that there's no way she will kiss a boy, Corey suggests, "A girl, maybe?"
    • Haley mentions that her mother used to be a showgirl with "great legs."
  • 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.
    • To be fair he did win a video game with a *Power Glove* as a controller...
  • 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. He also completely disregards Corey, the other runaway child, simply because he is only being paid to retrieve Jimmy. He does get better in the end.
    • 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.
    • Bateman, Jimmy's father (and Corey & Nick's stepfather). When he mentions having hired Putnam to find Jimmy, Sam asks "What about Corey?" To which Bateman replies, "Well, he wanted to run away. If we brought him back, would it do any good?"
      • Perhaps even worse than Bateman is Sam's ex-wife, Christine, who shows no concern for Corey's well-being, and does not appear to support Jimmy's new hobby at playing video games (even when $50,000 is at stake), despite Putnam abandoning his job to cheer him on, and even Bateman himself cheering on Jimmy right next to Sam!
  • Karma Houdini: The guys who steal the kids' money. And the other, unrelated guys who steal the kids' money.
  • King of Games: Two flavors in Jimmy, a gaming prodigy, and Lucas, who owns dozens of games and is master of all of them.
  • Ladies and Germs:
    Video Armageddon Emcee: Well! Ladies, gentlemen, children, siblings, ANIMALS!...
  • Large Ham: The aforementioned Emcee. Overlaps with Large Ham Announcer.
    Emcee: Come up here, MY LITTLE BEAUTIES!
  • Mattress Tag Gag: Discussed. When Sam sees that Nick hooked up a Nintendo to a mechanic's TV without asking, Nick quips "It's not like I'm cutting tags off of mattresses, Pop."
  • Merchandise-Driven: It can give Mac and Me a run for its (sponsors') money.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Corey, Haley, and Jimmy are riding in the back of a pickup which drives right by Putnam, who is (for some reason) standing outside of his car on the side of the road, shaving, with his back turned.
  • Missing Mom: When Corey asks Haley about her mom, she tells him that "she packed it in".
  • 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 (it's so bad).
    • Upon seeing the kids escape in an elevator, Putnam inexplicably screams "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?"
    • 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: Many NES and Play Choice-10 cabinets are littered in the film, and you do actually see the games for the most part, with the appropriate audio and everything, and even the Nintendo support hot-line is involved. This doesn't stop the characters from button-mashing in an exaggerated manner.
  • Papa Wolf: When Sam got the news of Corey and Jimmy having gone missing, the first thing he does is go straight to finding them, with with Nick tagging along!
  • Pedo Hunt: Played for Laughs in the infamous "He touched my breast!" scene.
  • Pop the Tires: Putnum, 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: Jimmy, the titular Wizard, is an Instant Expert in every video game he plays. He's even able to locate the World 1 Warp Whistle in Super Mario Bros. 3 on his first try in the middle of an intense competition.