I won’t give this one the full treatment. Just wanted to say that the references to Nintendo games are pretty much right in the sweet spot for my generation, so the movie is worth a look for that, if nothing else (Ninja Gaiden! Double Dragon!). In some ways, this is a perfect bridge from the 80s to 90s. The plot, in its barest form, is nothing short of ridiculous, but there’s an appealing blend of hokiness (Beau Bridges getting addicted to Nintendo, for example) and seriousness. The film is both a long-form commercial for Nintendo and a sparse, gripping, family drama. That may be the innate beauty of The Wizard, it is, ultimately, a serious movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. Yeah, there are plenty of cliches, like the bumbling evil guy or the nonsensical video game competition with an absurd host (and really, did the filmmakers think no one would notice the scoring announcements wouldn’t sync up with the visuals?) and bizarre scoring conventions. But that’s almost to be expected.

The cast is awesome. Christian Slater! Fred Savage! Beau Bridges! Luke Edwards plays the creepy kid who is a video game savant pretty well. Frank McRae is awesome. McRae, if you don’t know him by name, was the teacher in the opening of Red Dawn and Sharkey from License to Kill. So yeah, he rocks. And then there’s Jenny Lewis. Who is fantastic in the movie. One of the most striking things about the movie, to me, was how they dealt with her character’s sexuality, since Lewis was about twelve when the movie was filmed, and her character was probably meant to be right around that age. For the most part, she’s completely desexualized, assuming the role of mother figure to her little band, ostensibly partially in an effort to fill her own void from the mothering influence she never had in her own life. Not that mothers can’t be sexualized, they just aren’t in this sort of 80s movie, where the focus is on the kids and the parents are there to present some sort of obstacle for the kids. There is one scene, though, where in a last ditch effort to avoid the bad guy, she’s in a casino and screams out that he inappropriately touched her. And you can tell it is an 80s movie, because people immediately swarm around him, allowing Jenny Lewis to leave without anyone noticing. Now, I’m skeptical a movie today gets away with that (or even attempts it), just as I’m skeptical that the role wouldn’t be given to an eighteen year old (or someone playing eighteen, at least).

There’s also romantic tension between Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis, and I found their relationship rather poignant. They are two twelve year olds with no money or assets shepherding a nine year old on a road trip to California because “California” is the only thing he says (that and his frequent attempts to walk there alone have landed him in a home for mentally disturbed kids, from which Fred Savage springs him). Perhaps their struggle to persevere coupled with that age’s awkward method of courting isn’t anything new, though I might argue it is a particularly tender balance of puppy love and a marriage. But I think the evolution of their relationship on the journey contrasted their reversion to normal kids once everything has been set right, or at least as right as it can be, is very interesting. Just great bombastic 80s naivete, in my opinion, that these kids can grow so much as people, well beyond what kids their age “should” have to deal with, when facing these hardships; but once they’ve restored things to their natural order, they too are restored to the normal lives of twelve year olds.

I should probably stop talking about twelve year old girls before I become Brian. What? You really didn’t think that joke was coming? My point, or at least my intended point, is that The Wizard actually has some depth. Am I alone on that point? Would even David Chisolm, who wrote the screenplay, back me up? Beats me. Maybe. But I honestly think the movie is worth seeing on its own merits, not just because it introduced the world to Super Mario Bros. 3.

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