Fad: A fad, also known as a craze, refers to a fashion that becomes popular in a culture relatively quickly, but loses popularity dramatically. (Definition provided by Wikipedia.)
When a fad hits, it spreads to all aspects of society, including the cinema. In the 70's, everybody was disco dancing and kung fu fighting, allowing movies like "Saturday Night Fever" and "Enter the Dragon" to pack audiences in at the local theaters. Next, there was break dancing and hip hop culture, which lead to films such as, "Krush Groove", "Breakin'", and, yes, "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo." You could certainly count video games as a phenomenon that took popular culture by storm.
That's not to say video games were a mere fad, in fact, I'd say they are more ingrained into our lives than ever before. People can play them on their cell phones and the internet has provided gamers with all-new avenues for online gaming. But, there have been various points when video games climbed to high (albeit, brief) points of popularity, crossing over all forms of media. Remember "Pac Man Fever"?
During the late-70's and early-80's, Atari, Colecovision, and Mattel's Intellivision brought games out of the arcade and into the home. But, the bubble burst quickly as the companies cared more about cashing in than providing quality games. In the mid-80's, Nintendo revived the home market with their 8-bit system and classic games like, "Metroid", "Super Mario Bros.", and "Legend of Zelda." So, it was only a matter of time until they capitalized on their success with the 1989 feature-film, "The Wizard."
Fred Savage stars as Corey Woods, who lives with his older brother, Nick (Christian Slater), and divorced father, Sam (Beau Bridges). Corey has a half-brother, the autistic Jimmy (Luke Edwards), who is cared for by his mother, Christine (Wendy Phillips), and her new husband, Bateman (Sam McMurray). As the film opens, we see Jimmy wandering down a dirt road trying to get to California until he's found by the sheriff. Apparently, this isn't the first time that Jimmy has snuck off and his worried mother and step-father decide to place him in an institution. Corey can't stand to see Jimmy stuck in a place like that, so he spirits him away on a road trip to California.
What follows is a watered down version of "Rain Man" with a little bit of "Tommy" thrown in for good measure. Yes, that deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball. But, as Corey discovers, this kid Jimmy can play a mean game of "Double Dragon." The Woods boys pick up Haley (Jenny Lewis), the red-headed daughter of a trucker that helps them along on their journey. Together, the kids hustle local gamers for cash as they make their way from Utah to the video game championships in Los Angeles.
Of course, it wouldn't be a journey without a few roadblocks. Bateman has hired the somewhat sleazy, Putnam (Will Seltzer), to retrieve Jimmy and he doesn't exactly go about it in a nice way. They also have stiff competition in the championships from the arrogant Lucas (Jackey Vinson), who blows our young heroes away with his almighty Power Glove, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad!"
There's no two ways about it, "The Wizard" is pretty much an extended commercial for Nintendo. They manage to plug a bunch of their games, their magazine, the game tip hotline, and make the American debut of "Super Mario Bros. 3" during the film's climax at the championship finals. There's also the aforementioned, Power Glove, whose usefulness is grossly over exaggerated. The scene shows Lucas using it as a virtual reality steering wheel for a racing game. Sorry, but I remember the Power Glove, it was awkward, overpriced, and nowhere near as cool as they make it out to be.
At times, I felt my teeth hurt from the sugar sweetness of this film. Three young children traveling along the back roads of America and the worst that can happen are older teens stealing their money. Despite their setbacks, everything works it itself out. Before the movie even begins, we know Jimmy will make it to the finals, have a bit of trouble, but win it all in the end. Still, I found nothing wrong with that.
"The Wizard" has a definite charm in its innocence and sappiness. Fred Savage turns in a fine performance, as do Luke Edwards and Jenny Lewis, now the lead singer of Rilo Kiley. They're all quite likeable and it's hard not to root for them. In a blink or you'll miss him moment, watch for a very young Tobey Maguire as a member of Lucas's posse.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. While the picture quality doesn't quite jump out at you, it's still a clean and solid transfer.
The audio is presented Dolby Digital 2.0. The sound is crisp and clear with some bass kicking in as the film's soundtrack kicks in.
Nothing. Nada. Zippo. Not even a trailer. While the film has chapters, there's no scene selection at the main menu.
"The Wizard" isn't a great film, but it's not a terrible one. It's a relatively harmless, family friendly film. Longtime Nintendo fans and children of the 80's will probably enjoy giving "The Wizard" a spin. No doubt many of you will dust off the old NES while you're at it.