Yes, we actually do review movies here on occasion at DVS Gaming, especially if they’re game-related ones. And they don’t really get more game-related than The Wizard, a 1989 film that serves as a big ol’ Nintendo advertisement while, at the same time, telling a fun story revolving around siblings.
How the (Nintendo) Story Begins
Poor Jimmy. A young kid that dreams about going to California, but finds himself in a mixed mental state following the passing of his twin sister. But his half-brother, Corey (played by The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage), opts to take him on the journey, breaking him out of the hospital and vowing to get him to the big Video Armageddon tournament, where, surprise, Super Mario Bros. 3 takes center stage.
Along the way, Haley (Jenny Lewis) joins the crusade, a young girl with troubles of their own. The three characters run into a series of misadventures over the course of their trip, including avoiding a troublesome “bounty hunter” who wants to bring them back. There’s also Jimmy’s father (Beau Bridges) and half-brother (Christian Slater — yes, Mr. Robot’s Christian Slater), who have a journey of their own to take into NES-land.
It’s a flawed road movie, and it spends a bit of time on messages and stuff like that. But it’s also enjoyable 80’s fluff, surrounded by a lot of Nintendo mentions. This includes the Power Glove (remember that?) and even the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. That swimming level still ticks us off…all the pizza in the world can’t save us.
Still, the actors are, ahem, game enough for the material. Savage is terrific here and has excellent chemistry with Lewis as they get to know each other better. And the comical moments are a treat, particularly with a call-out on a Universal Studios ride that’s long gone. And Bridges and Slater have their moments as well, as they attempt to connect what makes gaming special with their younglings. Sure, it’s a Nintendo advertisement for the most part, but an enjoyable one.
Proper Treatment For an Old-School Film
Shout! Factory deserves commendation for going the extra mile over the previous Blu-Ray release, which was bare-bones at best. The video quality of the film gets the best treatment, as it’s never looked better. Bright, beautiful colors and an excellent representation of classic games are the keys of the day here, and the 4K transfer really pays off on the proper screen. The sound quality is also wonderfully mixed, so if you have a great stereo system set-up, it’ll take full advantage — and there will be plenty of familiar NES sounds to go around as well.
Extras, Extras, Extras — Dig in!
Then come the extras. There’s a ton of them here that will take you back to the old school days. Director Todd Holland provides an insightful commentary that’s fun to listen to, and there are a ton of deleted scenes that add even more NES-style context to the film, even if they’re not a part of it. The extended ending is pretty cool as well.
There’s also a 40-minute documentary that looks back at the making of The Wizard, including interviews with Savage, Luke Edwards, the director and writer, and more. They provide a number of details that should be fascinating for fans of this sort of thing.
Perhaps the real treat, however, is a video featurette where a Nintendo gameplay counselor is featured. Ever wonder what these guys worked with in the ’80s? Greg Lowder provides some good insight. The only downside is that it’s really, really short. But you’ll learn something.
For good measure, you’ll also see a clinical analysis of the film (if you want to dig deep); a post-screening Q & A from a recent Alamo Drafthouse screening; and a Let’s Play Gaming Expo from last year featuring the filmmakers talking about the movie. Throw in a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery and you’ve got a well-wrapped package. Only downside? Jenny Lewis didn’t participate. Maybe she was busy gaming…
Game On Back To the 80s
The Wizard isn’t the best gaming movie out there, but it makes for fluffy summer fun when we need it the most. And you can get this special edition for $20 or so, which is well worth the investment. The improved video and audio quality are noteworthy, and the extras are abundant. If it’s a blast from the past you need — or you just need to hear Fred Savage talk about the Power Glove again — this is a must for your collection.
The Wizard shines on with a wonderful collector’s edition provided by Shout! Factory.