The Wizard is a 1989 film starring Fred Savage, Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater, and Beau Bridges. It is about Jimmy Woods, a young boy who suffers from a serious mental disorder reminiscent of Hollywood Autism after a traumatic incident. After Jimmy is 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. They soon learn that Jimmy has godlike skills when playing video games, which is noticed by Haley Brooks (Lewis). Haley convinces the brothers to enter Jimmy into a video game tournament in Los Angeles, and helps them grift gamers to pay for the trip. Along the way, they meet with some other kids that eerily seem to lack parental supervision.
Meanwhile, the concerned mother of the runaway kids hires a sleazy private detective named Putnam (Will Seltzer) 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). Earlier in the decade, Universal had sued Nintendo over Donkey Kong; the cooperation between the two on The Wizard was seen as a sign that they had patched things up (as of 2020, Universal also plans on theme park attractions based on Nintendo properties, and their Illumination division made The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which was released in 2023).
Not to be confused with the homonym TV Series, The Wizard.
I love these tropes. They're so bad.
- Adorably Precocious Child: Corey and Haley both behave as if they're full-grown adults trapped in the bodies of teenagers. In fact, they act more mature than most of the adults they encounter.
- Award-Bait Song: Sally Dworsky's "I Found My Way" which was written for the film to the point that no other official recording exists anywhere else.
- Awkward Kiss: Corey and Haley. Also a Kiss Diss and a "Take That!" Kiss.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Corey and Haley of course. The two are clearly crushing on each other and yet their personalities constantly conflict too though.Haley: You're a quitter Corey! And I don't care if you did like me! Your attitude sucks!Corey: You wanted me to like you?Haley: Not anymore.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Lucas and Mr. Putnam; Lucas is the main rival of Jimmy at the video game tournament, while Mr. Putnam is the creepy and greedy private investigator/bounty hunter hired to find the escaped kids and resorts to unscrupulous tactics to capture them.
- 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!
- The biggest one not mentioned is Jimmy. Though technically, Jennifer is his twin, his drive to get to California to lay his sister's memory to rest falls into this category.
- Blended Family Drama: Downplayed with Christine. Corey says that during the time she was his stepmother, she did not really think of Corey or Nick as her children, and in particular didn't get along with Nick. At the end, she specifically tells Sam he can take their kids home, implying that now she thinks of Corey and Sam as her children, even if they are no longer her stepchildren.
- While only briefly mentioned in the theatrical cut, many of the deleted scenes show the drama between them, as well as Christine's dislike of Nick (and possibly Corey) leading to Sam basically ignoring his own kids.
- Broken Aesop: 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: The hat Corey puts on Jimmy, which gets stolen by the gang they bet against. Sam and Nick come across the one who takes the hat and figures he had seen the kids. And the hat was stolen shortly after they meet Lucas, who happens to be at the same location and tells them where they are heading.
- 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.
- Death of a Child: Jimmy is traumatized by the death of his sister, Jennifer. It's revealed that he wanted to travel to California to leave a photo of her at a spot special to them.
- 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: Or in this case, "Excited Video Game Tournament Host". Either way, that gaming emcee must really love his job. Overlaps with Large-Ham Announcer.
- Fan Disservice: The old man in the blue speedo.◊
- 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, Mr. Bateman offhandedly wonders what Jimmy keeps inside the lunch pail he always carries. Midway through the film, we see that it contains pictures and some artifacts from his dead twin sister.
- Funny Background Event: The infamous Power Glove scene has a news show playing in the background before Lucas's crew starts up Rad Racer. When Haley asks "What is that?" the TV says "Fire from the gods," amplifying the Mundane Made Awesome factor of the Power Glove. In addition, the BGM quotes the iconic theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which has become synonymous with The Western.
- 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.
- Godlike Gamer: Jimmy is basically a Nintendo playing savant whose incredible game skills win him and his friends the Video Armageddon tournament, beating out Memetic Badass Lucas.
- Hollywood Psychology: Apparently going through a traumatic incident gives you severe autism or something like it. Yeah. While some cases of PTSD do resemble autism and are often misdiagnosed as that, those cases aren't quite the same as it's portrayed here.
- Hufflepuff House: Mora Grissom, the other finalist in the final round with Jimmy and Lucas.
- Idiot Savant: Jimmy, the titular Wizard, is autistic and 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.
- Inspirationally Disabled: Jimmy
- Mr. 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.
- Mr. Bateman, (Jimmy's stepfather; initially). When he mentions having hired Putnam to find Jimmy, Sam asks "What about Corey?" To which Mr. Bateman replies, "Well, Corey wants to run away, doesn't he? Even if we brought him back, would it do any good?"
- Also the two truckers who rob the three kids of the approximately $100 they flashed. As well as being jerks, that's just petty.
- 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 Announcer: The Emcee.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: The autistic kid with a dead sibling doesn't do much to distract from the fact that the film is a 90-minute commercial for Nintendo.
- 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: 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.
- During the Super Mario Bros. 3 segment, warping to World 4 apparently provides a substantial score boost, even though in the actual game, warping in and of itself doesn't actually provide any point bonuses.
- Basically, the whole premise of playing for points, which was already getting rather outdated by 1989. In the NES era, one's performance was determined more by advancement than by the points.
- Pædo Hunt: Played for Laughs when Haley yells "He touched my breast!" to stop Putnam from taking Jimmy.
- 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!
- Pop the Tires: Putnam, the greedy 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! 3!!!!
- Road Trip Plot: Sam and Jimmy journey to California by hustling Jimmy's skill at video games.
- Shout-Out: Spankey apparently works for Hawk Trucking, according to the lettering on the door, driving Lincoln Hawk's old truck from Over the Top
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: When Putnam shows up at the video game tourney finals asking if he will still get paid, Christine is so frustrated she tells Putnam off for all his incompetence.Putnam: Well, we got him cold now. I flushed him out. Of course, we still have a deal, Mrs. Bateman...
Christine: Shut up!
- Spoiler Cover: Averted; while Mario makes the same pose on the film's poster art as he does on Super Mario Bros. 3's cover art, he's missing the Tanuki ears and tail seen in the latter, so that audiences at the time wouldn't have been tipped off to any surprises related to the character. Unfortunately, it's the trailer that spoils it instead.
- That One Player: Lucas.
- Title Drop: After Haley calls Jimmy a wizard, Lucas calls Jimmy the wizard.
Lucas: So, you the wizard?
Haley: Hi. My name is Haley, and I've got a wizard who's going all the way to the championships in Los Angeles.
Lucas: Hey, It's the wizard.
- 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.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Nintendo didn't want the reveal of Super Mario Bros. 3 to be a surprise, for obvious reasons, so they made sure the trailer gave viewers a nice, clear shot of the game's title screen.
- Walking the Earth: All of the kids become this.
- 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. For the characters, at least, since almost everyone watching already knew this. At the time of release though, the reveal of the game was still fairly significant, as for many viewers this was the first time they got to see actual footage of it in action as opposed to just blurry screenshots and text blurbs.
- When the contents of Jimmy's lunchbox are revealed, which even his family didn't know what was kept in it. It's pictures of his twin sister, Jennifer. It leads to Corey talking about what happened to her, as Jennifer had only been briefly mentioned a few times with no major details, as well as explaining the family relationship.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The truckers who rob the kids of some their money, and some teen gamers who rob the kids of the $20 they hustled them out of (plus a few extra bucks for interest). One of the latter was last seen confronted by Sam and Nick, but heaven knows whether or not any of them got what was coming to them.
- Whole-Plot Reference: Let's see: a mute kid who turns out to be extremely talented at arcade games and uses that talent to win a games competition? Is this The Wizard or the middle part of Tommy?