The Wizard (1989)

6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Super Mario Bros. 3!

Kid aspect of story gets in the way of drama

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Wizard

Studio:  Finnegan/Pinchuck Productions

Genre(s):  Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  December 15, 1989

MPAA Rating:  PG


$50,000! We should run away more often!

Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards) is locked in his own world after the death of his sister.  When he is institutionalized, his brother Corey (Fred Savage) decides to get him out.  With a goal of California, Corey discovers Jimmy is a video game wizard.  Jimmy and Corey find themselves teamed with a young con-artist named Haley Brooks (Jenny Lewis) and pursued by a runaway bounty hunter named Putnam (Will Seltzer) who is competing with Corey’s father (Beau Bridges) and brother Nick (Christian Slater) in a race to find them.  Their goal is the video game championships in Los Angeles and winning could change all of their lives.


I love the Power Glove…It’s so bad…

Directed by Todd Holland, The Wizard was a kids’ video game drama.  The movie was released at the height of Nintendo popularity and known for featuring the premiere of the hit video game Super Mario Bros. 3 in the United States.  The movie received mixed reviews from critics but has become a cult classic.

I saw The Wizard in the theater.  Not only was I huge Nintendo fan who wanted to see Super Mario Bros. 3 (remember it was pre-internet where you couldn’t just look up everything on YouTube), but I was also the same age as Fred Savage so it was easy to identify with the characters.  I have sentimental softness for the movie, but I also realize it is pretty bad.


He touched my breast!

Two brothers (one of them suffering from a mental condition) travelling across America to California and stopping in a Nevada gambling town on the way.  The movie was called Rain Man and The Wizard has a lot of similar themes.  The character of Jimmy was compared to Raymond Babbitt, but the movie decided not to call it autism (many said intentionally to avoid comparison).  While Rain Man has tenderness, The Wizard’s tenderness is lost in kid aspect of the movie…but if you loved video games and it was 1989, you did not really care.


Sure, Lucas was cool, but I want to know what happened to Mora Grissom!

Fred Savage was the kid star of the day.  With The Princess Bride, The Wonder Years, and even Little Monsters, he was a great every-kid…who always seemed to play the same character (so maybe he just played himself).  Luke Edwards has the harder role as his brother.  He struggles a great deal, but sometimes manages to pull off scenes.  Jenny Lewis is a bit over-acting in her role but I can forgive her since she’s gone on to make great movie with Rilo Kiley and her solo career.  Beau Bridges and Christian Slater play almost bumbling partners in the pursuit of the kids and Will Selzter is over the top as the bounty hunter.  Plus, you get evil bad-ass Lucas played by Jackey Vinson (and there is a cameo by Tobey Maguire as one of his friends at the tournament).


Super Mario Bros. 3!!!!

The movie is totally ’80s.  The looks, the outfits, and of course the video games.   Nintendo was the hot commodaty at the time and all the featured games are Nintendo games.  While it seemed so cool as a kid to see kids playing games you played, nothing is also worse than seeking people “fake play” games (like Beau Bridges in his scenes).  Plus, you get to revisit the dinosaurs of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and the best line of all times…”I love the Power Glove…it’s so bad”.

The Wizard is a kids movie for kids of the ’80s.  It doesn’t have the staying power of some more timeless kids movies like The Goonies (which also is dated, but endures because it is smarter).  I can watch the movie and enjoy it simply because it was made for me, but I can’t imagine that a younger viewer would even get it.  The thrill of seeing games on the big screen was big and to see Mario fly for the first time was as exciting for the characters as it was for me.  Put The Wizard on any day and I’d probably watch it…for better or worse.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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