The Wizard (1989)


Being a lover of video games, I had heard a great many things about The Wizard long before I ever had the chance to see it. It came out at an awkward time for me, being just old enough to know about it, yet just a bit too young to really give it much notice. But after I got older and found myself being drawn back into the world of retro games, it once again popped back up on my radar.  I found an old VHS rental at a local thrift store for $0.50 one day, was struck by sudden nostalgia thanks to all the bright, gaudy colors, and decided to take a little trip back into the 80s. But let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. Not because of the movie itself, but because of the struggle to actually get it to play.

You see, the tape I purchased wasn’t completely rewound (They were not kind. They did not rewind.), so I popped it into the player to fix this grievous error  and walked away for a minute. When I came back, my poor VCR was making a weird clicking noise. Fearing the worst, I popped the tape out only to realized it hadn’t rewound the tape at all. Hoping against hope that the VCR wasn’t broken (it had worked the week before) I tried another tape. No problem. Then I examined The Wizard tape more closely and noticed a strange crystal-like substance on part of the wound tape. Well, damn. What the hell is that?

Answer: I still have no idea. But it forced me to physically take the tape apart and re-wind it by hand, cause I’m just old school like that. About 30 minutes later, the tape was clean and I was finally able to watch the movie and hoping that it would raise my suddenly sour mood.

To my surprise it did. I’ve heard The Wizard described as Rainman for kids and that is, in fact, a very accurate description.

The Wizard is about a kid named Jimmy and his brother. Jimmy is a child with problems. What they are is never clearly explained, but it is implied that he has some sort of mental disorder, most likely autism. All Jimmy wants to do is go to California, but his constant efforts to run away and do so land him in an institution. Wanting to give his brother what he wants, older brother Cory breaks him out…

2wizardGee, an child’s Institution with no guards? How convenient.

…and they head out to California in style, in the only way a 10-13 year-old can: Via Hostess Twinky truck

3wizardI at least hope they stole some for the road. They’re gonna need the sugar.

Along the way they meet up with a girl and discover that, though Jimmy might be a little different from the other children, Jimmy is also quite gifted. And since the movie is essentially a glorified commercial for video games, by gifted we mean that he can rock the Nintendo Entertainment System games like nobody’s business. The two older kinds decide to take advantage of this little tidbit of info, and take Jimmy to a video game competition. At this point in the movie the viewer is sometimes thrown awkwardly random shots of NES games and hardware. If you’re an old school NES fan like I am, than these shots are going to be a nice trip down memory lane. If not, than they may totally piss you off.

4wizardOr in Mr. Help Hotline’s case here, bore you to tears.

On the way to the tournament the three kids face some of the typical kids-fare adolescent angst that movies like this just love to throw at kids. Of course, they also have to deal with some annoying teenage bullies, all while trying to avoid their many pursuers: Jimmy and Cory’s father and brother and a very sleazy and creepy Runaway Child Hunter. Th Child Hunter was an addition sent by mom, and I have no idea in hell where Jimmy’s mother found this guy. Introducing him to the story is one thing, but the way he goes about trying to catch Jimmy just screams ‘pedophile’ to anyone over the age of 13. Thankfully the writers realized this and had the kids deal with it in a thoughtful, sensitive manner.

5wizard“He touched my breast!”
Cory: “I wasn’t thinking anything I swea- Oh, you mean him. *cough*”
Honestly though, screw the “Power Glove.” I thought this was the funniest line in the whole damn film.

No. Wait, sorry. This is an 80’s movie. They just had some helpful truckers beat his ass.

6wizardA 6-pack of Soda was only $1.67?! Damn it! And people wonder why I miss the 80’s!

I’ve often heard The Wizard described as a giant plug for Nintendo. But honestly, I didn’t feel that bombarded by Nintendo until the very end. (Okay, Christian Slater dragging along an NES while they’re searching for his missing brothers may have been too much.) The way I’d heard it described, I actually expected it to be much worse. Like, much, much worse. As it was though… *shrug* it really didn’t bother me. It’s obviously there, but what do you expect. It was 1989. With the exception of the occasional Pac Man machine these were pretty much some of the same cabs and games I remember seeing all over the place around that time.

The Wizard is an 80’s movie through and through. It’s also a film squarely aimed at appealing to kids. So naturally it’s filled with appropriate plot holes and plot devices. But I still found it fun and, in the end, ultimately heart warming. Definitely recommended for those looking for a little nostalgia kick.




One thought on “The Wizard (1989)

  1. I too one day hope to jack a Twinkie truck and drive cross country illegally to play video games with one of my brothers while getting random truckers to beat up people. It’s the true American dream.


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