Instead of playing a childhood game this week, I decided to take a look at one of my favorite childhood movies. I hope you guys enjoy the variety. Many of our childhood favorites do not hold up as well for us when we’re adults but for some odd reason 1989’s The Wizard is still magical to me, even at the age of 38. I remember when this movie came out. I was ten years old and dragged my mom kicking and screaming to the theater with me. At that age my life revolved around school and my NES. Comic books were creeping in, but they hadn’t matched up with gaming just yet. Seeing as I lived in California at the time, the whole cross country road trip story arc didn’t pull me in. What pulled me in was seeing all these video games that I didn’t know existed at the time and hadn’t yet played. Please remember in 1989 we didn’t have the Internet yet and the only way we could see video games in action was to own them, see a commercial or demo them at a store kiosk. Now, the magic of seeing them in motion on the screen has lost its luster, but not 28 years ago.
The cast does a great job with the source material. None of them ever make it too hokey and they actually make you care about their characters and the mission they are on. Luke Edwards does a great job as Jimmy. It had to have been hard for the director to tell young Edwards to act so perfectly for the role. Fred Savage nails his part like he has since… forever! Christian Slater plays a great oldest brother role with Beau Bridges as the father. Their road tip together makes for some great comedic gold. And of course there is Jenny Lewis, every young boy’s crush after seeing the movie, she plays the young confident pre-teen to a tee. She even stole my heart back in the day.
The story is actually well written for a movie just hocking Nintendo items and such, even though the road trip part didn’t impress me. A young boy, Jimmy Woods is on a quest to get to California and from the first scene in the movie you can tell the boy had some sort of mental disability. Nowadays, seeing as the disability wasn’t named in the movie, we would most likely classify the young boy as Autistic seeing as he is very gifted at one thing. This one thing is what drives the movie forward. Jimmy is insanely good at video games of the 8-bit variety. These are games that when played today garner a vein popping rage in some gamers, like Ninja Gaiden for example. On his way to California little Jimmy Woods is picked up by the police and taken back to his mother and step-father, where they discuss putting him in a home. Corey, Jimmy’s older brother, is not okay with this and Jimmy’s real father, Sam, has no say in what happens. So Corey decides to break him out and get him to California, now remember this was the 80’s and children could actually walk around without fear of being kidnapped or murdered.
At a bus stop Corey realized that little Jimmy is, for lack of a better word, a wizard with video games. At this bus stop they meet Haley Brooks who thinks that she can best Jimmy at Double Dragon. She loses horribly and Corey grabs the money and tries to get some bus tickets to California, sadly the bus has left and they’re stuck in a little Podunk town. She informs them of a huge video game championship in California that would make sure that Jimmy never goes in a home if he was the victor. This is where the movie waxes nostalgia for any 80’s child. From this point on we see countless 8-bit video games that make us yearn for our youth. Ninja Gaiden, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more! Heck even Corey’s dad and older brother get the Nintendo craze while searching for them. And yes, there is the famous PowerGlove scene, which made me want one. I was of course disappointed when it didn’t work as well. And yes, I still have it in my possession to this day.
What really made this movie special in 1989 was the fact that it was the first time commoners were allowed to see Super Mario Brothers 3 gameplay. Everyone figured that the game was coming out, but no one expected it to be Jimmy’s final boss in the movie once he finally gets to the Nintendo World Championship. At that time we pretty much lived in the Stone Age and really didn’t know what was coming out until it was on the store shelves or via television commercials. Video games were not as huge as they are now and information from the gaming industry came at us in a slow trickle, as opposed to the constant tsunami that it is now. Lots of critics hailed this movie as one huge commercial for Nintendo, which it absolutely was, but back then they created Transformers and He-Man cartoons just to sell the Hasbro toys. It is what a child in the 80’s went through: constant commercialism. And I like to think I turned out quite alright.
This movie is for any age group. Yes it focuses primarily on video games and youngsters road tripping, but it has a solid story. My mom and I watched this recently, and even she was brought to a tear by the ending; which is extremely touching considering the overall theme of this movie. If you have never seen this movie you must, it was my generation’s Wreck-it-Ralph, and in my humble opinion, thousands of times better. You owe it to yourself to experience what it was like to be a gamer in the 80’s and just how totally rad it was back in my day. You will not be disappointed and you’ll shed a tear or two, whether those tears be nostalgia or sympathy.
Have you ever seen this movie? If so, what do you think? Let us know in the comments or let me know on Twitter, @SuperJerry13. You can also follow me to see what I’m playing and what I think about it!