The Wizard arrived around the same as Steel Magnolias. I say this because of vivid memories as a child. You have never heard some child plead to see a different movie over the familiar Loews Cinemas jingle than my 8 year old self. I sat through Driving Miss Daisy, Prancer, Steel Magnolias twice and Always before I got to see The Wizard on its last week in theatrical release. Before the film ended, I was already making plans to obtain a Power Glove.
Nintendo is hard to understand for younger people. At the time, Atari made that pioneering entry dent into the mainstream. But, Nintendo blew the door off the hinges. I can already hear the gaming heads screaming about the popularity of arcades. Well, arcades are what fed Nintendo’s primary selling point. Why go to the Arcade for what you can get at home?
Sure, the graphics suck in comparison. You just don’t have to worry about weirdos, truckers and spoiled rich kids antagonizing your children during their cross-country escapades. That’s how we transition to the world of The Wizard. Small sibling of Fred Savage is autistic (implied, not stated). He wants to head to California to fulfill his dreams of being in a movie saying “Cal-uh-forn-ya”.
Fred Savage rescues his younger traumatized sibling from the horrors of his blended family forcing him into an institution. For those born after 2000, Fred Savage is another oddity to explain. Basically, he was a human puppet for Baby Boomers to remember their childhood. In time, he would deploy Little Monsters to also turn a kids’ movie into a tale about Boomers navigating the tricky world of divorce.
But, you don’t know anything about Little Monsters. Little Monsters was the first part of Savage’s 1989 Hollywood fame slam. But, it was a late summer release that MGM farted out to the masses. It would later become a hit on home video. Nintendo didn’t do that one any favors, but it had killer makeup effects that hold up to this day.
Back to The Wizard, well the Savage brothers venture cross country and meet up with little Jenny Lewis. As a fan of the indie rock and kid movies, it should be noted that Lewis was formerly of Troop Beverly Hills and later Rilo Kiley. She’d later bust out solo with amazing albums, but she spends this movie accusing people of touching her breast.
While we’re talking about that, how come nobody brings up how odd it is that a bounty hunter type truant officer was dispatched to grab Fred Savage’s little brother? The predatory nature of the character and his sanctioned behaviors only serve to make the mom and her new husband look like clumps of shit. Beau Bridges and older Savage brother (Christian Slater) deserved medals for being the only functional adults in this piece.
I’m forgetting to talk about the video games. Well, The Wizard was touted for months as being the first chance to see Super Mario Brothers 3 game play. Back in the day before even Dial-Up Internet was a thing, this was hot shit. Nintendo Power with its claymation Mario and wicked ass Castlevania covers would command America’s youth to worship their latest products. After the disappointment of Super Mario Brothers 2, fans wanted something to blow their socks off.
Nintendo responded with Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and only pissed off more fans. Time would pass and the promise of Super Mario Brothers 3 would be touted. Back in 1989, I knew nothing about the new game outside of hearing about a warp whistle. I didn’t know what a warp whistle was or how I found out, but I had to see that thing on a premium screen. My parents who hated going to the movies, gave even less of a shit about me watching another kid play a video game that I didn’t have.
But, it was a different time. Kids socialized in public arenas, then perfected those skills on home consoles. There was always an older kid with more perks and merchandise to make gaming easier. Honestly, it was the last gasp of the 80s for children. Materialism powered by fandom craving more and more of something that was gated by cash-driven locales.
Then, little Tobey Maguire makes a cameo when they reach Universal Studios theme park. The Wizard is many things, but what it isn’t is a successful narrative. Arguing for the Wizard’s storytelling is like trying to find the deeper meaning in an Apple Jacks commercial. When the only retort is because Product, then because it’s there…there isn’t a lot of wiggle room. Hence, the reliance on the Savage and his family.
When discussing kid movies that were big when you were a kid, one must combat nostalgia. That’s easy to do when you have discerning tastes and the ability to spot a far-fetched commercial from a mile away. Having wanted this film on Blu-ray for ages, it wasn’t until the first Blu-ray from Universal arrived that I saw the movie for what it was. Time can do that to a person.
Constantly repeating jokes, the Nintendo push and the lack of any clear motivation for the road trip produces a movie that is made for 8 year olds. It works wonders when you’re 8. Still, it’s odd to see how The Wizard holds up when 8 year olds are rocking VR headsets and next-gen gaming now. Their parents might give a shit about NES Classic, but these kids won’t lift their asses to fart unless cloud saving is in the mix.
The Blu-ray comes with a new 4K transfer. You get some new deleted scenes never released to home video. But, the commentary feels like a port. But, you also get the in-depth featurettes and documentary material that makes a Shout Factory release matter. I’ll throw up a screen shot gallery for you to check out. I’d recommend a purchase.