If you’re a video game nerd that grew up in the 80’s you probably have a love for either the Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis (or both). I was a big Nintendo (NES) fan, and one of the films that came out at the height of the Nintendo craze is The Wizard. Some people say it’s little more than a long theatrical commercial for Nintendo and its new game Super Mario Bros. 3, But I disagree. This film is much more than just a video game movie and is one I still look fondly upon from my youth.
When the Film opens, 9 year old Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards) is wandering down a Highway alone carrying his lunchbox that he takes everywhere, when a State Trooper picks him up, Jimmy is muttering about going to California. We find out that Jimmy disappears constantly and his Mother and Stepfather have Decided to have him institutionalized because they can’t deal with him since the “incident”. Jimmy’s Older brother Corey (Fred Savage) of The Wonder Years Fame is Upset that they plan to do this and decides he’s going to break Jimmy out and go on a Roadtrip to California (Thanks to throwing darts at a map of the USA). Corey doesn’t really know how they’re going to get there as he has very little money but they hitch a ride out of the home on a Hostess Cake delivery truck and they’re on their way.
One fun thing about this film upon watching it again recently is that EVERYONE uses maps constantly. Kids today will surely ponder why they didn’t use their smartphones for directions, but fondly remembering family excursions with HUGE maps unfolded from my own childhood only adds to the nostalgia.
As Corey tries to buy Bus Tickets to California with about $26 (which fails) he Sits Jimmy in front of an arcade game and Jimmy shocks him by Destroying the high score in a few minutes
This is where the boys run into Haley (Jenny Lewis) whom they decide to Grift and promptly win her bus ticket when Jimmy disposes of her in a game of Double Dragon.
Haley sees that although Jimmy doesn’t talk much, he’s Very gifted at video games so they decide to con some more people to make the money to get out to Cali. When Haley sees an ad for Video Armageddon in L.A., the goal is now to get Jimmy there to win the $50,000 prize
When Jimmy disposes of more local kids at the arcade, we see some random kid explain to them that he couldn’t beat Lucas, the local gaming guru. Of course they want to meet Lucas and when they do we meet a kid that uses his “powerglove” and intimidates Jimmy to the point he won’t play him
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s mother has hired a Child Bounty Hunter (For lack of a better term) to Find Jimmy and bring him home for the cash reward.
This Doesn’t sit well with Jimmy’s Father Sam (Beau Bridges) or his oldest brother Nick (Christian Slater) so they decide to search for the boys themselves. The 2 parties are a funny side story as they both try to sabotage each other by slashing tires, then full out road rage warfare.
Jimmy, Corey, and Haley continue towards California hitching rides with varying levels of success. We have a stop off in Reno Nevada where we find out that Haley doesn’t quite live the glamorous life she told the boys, but with the help of one of her Dad’s trucker friends earns enough money at the Craps tables to Train Jimmy on all the Nintendo games he could be playing at the championships by Calling Nintendo Gamer Helplines that we are given a several minute montage of.
Unfortunately the Bounty Hunter has tracked them to the hotel they’re training at and he grabs Jimmy at the Arcade. Strangely no one notices or cares that a dishevelled man is abducting a 9 year old boy out of an arcade
That is until Haley decides she has a plan to stop him in his tracks…
Clear of the bounty hunter (For now) the 3 continue towards the Championship but when Jimmy is Taken in the middle of the night, all seems lost until Haley calls upon her Trucker friends once more to rescue Jimmy and also give them a lift to Video Armageddon.
Once entered Jimmy makes it into the Finals VS Lucas and some 3rd random Girl. By now everyone is at the event and our pesky Bounty hunter again tries to nab Jimmy. The kids escape on a universal studios lot tour with him, Jimmy’s Dad and older brother in hot pursuit.
after messing up the tour, the 3 escape Just in time for the finals to start when we are told the finalists will be playing a NEW game that none of the 3 finalists have ever played:
The final Sequence is fun enough, although Haley keeps giving Jimmy tips on how to win with information she couldn’t possibly know (Seeing as how it’s a new game and all) but Jimmy struggles until he opens the Warp Zone just in the nick of time to win it all!
Once the Championship is over and everyone is headed home we see Jimmy get upset as they pass a tourist trap and wants to get out of the car, this is where we find out this was the last happy memory he had of him and his Twin sister who Drowned, which started the decline of the family. Jimmy wants to Leave his lunchbox filled with mementos of his sister at the Giant Dinosaur.
Now that that is taken care of we are left to assume that everything is going to work out and that Haley has a new family although her father (whom we never see) may wonder what happened to her.
The Wizard (1989)
The Wizard (1989) - 7/10
Nostalgia fans of the 80’s and video games should enjoy this family friendly adventure road trip movie about a group of friends traveling to a video game championship in California overcoming the odds to get there. Plenty of Nintendo product placement throughout!