In 1989, I was six years old. Like most six year olds, I was glued to the TV for my daily intake of cartoons. It was during these hours that I was exposed to the amazing world of advertising for the first time. Toys, video games, movies, and dolls were advertised to kids each afternoon in hopes of convincing our dumb little minds that we needed the latest cheap piece of crap because they made it look cool. It worked, and to this day there are several toys and board games I still want because of how great the commercials were in the 80’s. In the late 80’s/early 90’s had to be the peak of adolescent advertising, since they put it in everything.
Sometime between Ninja Turtles and The Real Ghostbusters, I caught my first glimpse of an upcoming movie starring the kid from The Wonder Years. It was called The Wizard, and it featured video games! Oh man, I couldn’t wait. A freaking video game movie, how cool is that. I had to see it, especially since I wanted an explanation of why someone gave a crap about the score in Double Dragon. Seriously, who every looks at the score total outside of Pacman or Space Invaders?
I had no concept of time really, so I relied on my parents to remind me and take me to see The Wizard once it came out. In what is one of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood, I’ll never forget setting in the back of our van when my mom turned to me and let me know that we would not be seeing The Wizard because my two year old brother wouldn’t enjoy it. Instead, we were going to see The Little Mermaid. I’m pretty sure every ounce of faith in humanity I had died that day and has never fully been restored.
Lucky for me, my parents were good at keeping me up-to-date on the latest kid’s releases at our local Videorama, so once The Wizard was available to rent, I finally got to bask in all it’s glory. I remember sitting there, diggin some parts, but feeling unfulfilled after it was all said and done. I expected a lot more Nintendo and a little less stupidity.
People like to joke that it was a ninety minute commercial for Nintendo and Universal Studios. It’s really hard to argue since the games were scattered throughout the entire movie and the climax takes place at Universal and you see quite a bit of the park. What doesn’t get mentioned is how terrible they were at actually presenting the video games. Even as a little kid, I realized the mistakes and issues that were made. Most of the games were shown in arcades, and the couple times they do break out the NES they got all Big Bang Theory on it and fake it so bad you know they aren’t actually playing. Also back then, no one gave a crap about a Nintendo score, but they made it out like the score total was a huge deal. I guess in the frame of a competition it would be, but I certainly cannot tell you what an average score is on Double Dragon. Not back then, and not today.I rewatched The Wizard a few nights ago after picking it up in a pretty nifty DVD pack. I’ve seen it a few times over the years, but its been a good fifteen years or so since my last viewing. Some of my thoughts on the film
-The constantly bashing of Jimmy as a “headcase” by pretty much everyone in the film was a little disheartening to see even today. It was rough, and I know we live in a more politically correct society now, but its difficult to think that talking to a child that way was ever acceptable.
-Christian Slater and Beau Bridges both do a good job in their roles. As does Fred Savage and and Luke Edwards.
-Lucas was a prick back then, and is a prick now. I wanted to go back in time and put on two Power Gloves and bash his skull in all Mike Tyson Punch Out style. His career went no where and he’s actually a registered sex offender now.
-The surprising cast member was Jenny Lewis who played Haley. She went on to do quite a bit more acting including a guest spot on Roseanne. Later in life she began a pretty successful singing career that began with the band Riley Kilo. I knew Riley Kilo from their incredible song Pictures of Success which was my favorite song featured on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
-I noticed Tobey McGuire early on and found out that it was his first role in a movie.
The movie isn’t horrible, it just wasn’t good. I think if they had focused on maybe pushing just a few Nintendo games and prominently showed them throughout the movie it would have turned out a little better. Less definitely would have been more. There is no denying the awesomeness that was the debut of Super Mario Brothers 3 though. I hadn’t played it yet by the time I saw the movie and was just thrilled watching those few minutes of action. It sure beat the hell out of photos in Nintendo Power.
Over the years, Nintendo’s foray into movies has been disastrous. It’s sad, because I really think some properties, especially Zelda, could be turned into amazing movie franchises. While The Wizard wasn’t a Nintendo movie, it was definitely a movie with a ton of their involvement. And while it is incredibly flawed, I still enjoyed watching it the other night. Its part of video game history and should be honored as so.