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Film / The Wizard

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"I love the Power Glove. It's so bad."

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 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 is a godlike entity around video games, which is noticed by Haley (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.


Sound familiar?

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 is planning an animated Mario movie).

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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Probably the most egregious are the Super Mario Bros. 3 mistakes, since it was the centerpiece of the climax while most of the other games were only shown for a few seconds each and not in a formal setting. In SMB3, since they were competing on pure points, Jimmy finding and using the Warp Whistle is not only not a good move, it should have completely taken him out of competition. Picking up the whistle ends the stage without killing the boss and with no bonus, meaning that Jimmy first didn't get the 7k points for killing the Boom Boom, but he ALSO didn't get the stage clear time bonus of approx. 15k. Meanwhile warping to another world actively wastes time without doing ANYTHING to actually increase your score.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Jerkass:
    • 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: 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.
    • 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 then; by 1989, how well one was doing at most of the games the children were shown playing would have been determined more by advancement than by the points.
      • Which has a weird backwards way of handling it in the movie: clearly, when Corey says "You got 50,000 points in Double Dragon?!" note , he's more impressed by how far Jimmy got in a game he had no experience with. And the big finale with Super Mario Bros. 3 is stated to be for points, but given the fact that Jimmy gets a huge boost for getting the Warp Whistle and jumping forward to World 4, it's clear that they're playing for progress. It's almost as though the script equated points with progress for the adults in the audience, since that's what they would know.
  • 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!
  • That One Player: Lucas.
  • Title Drop: After Haley calls Jimmy a wizard, Lucas calls Jimmy the wizard.
Haley: Look at him. He's making the jump, it's his second time through, and he hasn't even taken a hit yet. He's a 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.


Video Example(s):


The Genius [The Wizard]

The clip from The Genius is a clear parody of the iconic "Power Glove scene" in The Wizard.

How well does it match the trope?

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