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Film / The Wizard

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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 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.


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).


I love these tropes. They're so bad.

  • 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: Putnam, the creepy, unscrupulous private investigatornote , who is mostly motivated by the money and even resorts to such underhanded tactics as having a tow truck driver take Jimmy's dad's pickup away and finding Haley's address to kidnap Jimmy.
  • 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 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. Probably the most egregious are the Super Mario Brothers 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, Bateman offhandedly wonders what Jimmy keeps inside the lunchbox 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.
  • 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" and claims to have inherited them, even asking Corey his opinion of them.
    • In response to Lucas' infamous "power glove" line, Corey says, "Yeah, well, uh, just keep your Power Gloves off her, pal, huh?"
  • Godlike Gamer: Jimmy is basically a Nintendo playing savant whose incredible game skills wins 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.
  • 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, 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 truckers who rob the kids of their money; and some completely unrelated teen bullies who rob the kids of their money again.
  • 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 5,000 points in Double Dragon?!", 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.
  • 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.
  • Recycled In Space: The movie is essentially Rain Man WITH NINTENDO VIDEO GAMES!
  • 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, Ms. 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.


Example of: