So, instead of doing big long essays every time I want to cover a film, I decided to start doing what I’m going to call “Rapid Reaction” reviews. That name is catchy as fuck, you can’t deny it. They’ll be much less formally written, consisting of my thoughts on the film as it’s going on. The first example of this can be seen when I live tweeted watching the Nicolas Cage movie “Next” because try as I might, I cannot stop myself from making him a central part of everything I do. The larger Mega Movie reviews will be saved for films of an amazingly bad quality, like the Nicolas Cage movie Deadfall. See? I can’t shake him.
The first film I’ve decided to official cover in this new format is The Wizard, a Fred Savage vehicle from 1989, that’s essentially a 100 minute long Nintendo commercial. From what I remember, an awesome 100 minute long Nintendo commercial. I ended up watching this film a lot when I was a kid because my sister had a crush on Fred Savage. It was such a big part of my childhood that I bought it and Little Monsters the day they came out on DVD, even though I was 23 at the time. Little Monsters is still amazing, but I haven’t watched The Wizard until today, so let’s see how it holds up. Just a note, all pictures can be enlarged.
– We open with a kid wandering down a desert road, while one of those inspirational 80’s power ballads plays. I have no idea what band it is, so let’s just say Stryper for now, until I can find out in the credits.
-Turns out there’s a bit of a manhunt going on for the little fella, and soon he’s rounded up by a state trooper. When asked where he’s going he simply replies “California.” The trooper then chastises him about how everyone wants to go to California. Now I want to go to California.
-The kid’s name is Jimmy and his mother has recently remarried. The fact that the new husband is a typical 80’s douche bag should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone. He’s none too pleased that Jimmy keeps wandering off randomly. For some reason it feels like we’re supposed to hate him for this. He later went on to become the boss on King of Queens.
-Just so you know, Jimmy is autistic. It’s never openly stated, but they couldn’t hint any harder about it. In fact, when you really boil it down, this movie is just Rainman with video games and Christian Slater.
-Slater plays Nick, brother to Fred Savage’s Cory. This is only the second most famous portrayal of a Cory by a member of the Savage family. They’re both Jimmy’s half brothers and Cory is all pissy that no one seems to care Jimmy might be put in a home. He even turns down Nick’s offer to “Go to the Dairy Queen and kick back a few,” whatever that means.
-Fed up with his father and brother, Cory runs away. He determines his destination by throwing darts at a map, eventually landing on California. It’s then that he decides he might as well kidnap his half brother as well.
-Cory’s plan revolves around stowing themselves away in a Hostess Cake/Wonderbread truck. No, I’m not making that up.
– The whole thing causes quite a stir, and Jimmy’s parents hire a man named Putnam to find him, because he finds runaways professionally. It’s somewhat disturbing then, that Putnam looks like the kind of guy you’d see on To Catch a Predator.
– Putnam informs Cory’s dad that he doesn’t get paid if he doesn’t bring Jimmy back, and tells him not to get in his ways. Oh how I long for the days when finding missing children was a competition
-After a montage of Cory and Jimmy’s life on the road, the pair end up in a random town and Cory leaves Jimmy at an arcade game while he tends to some business. It’s here we learn of Jimmy’s savant-like abilities at video games. For those of you keeping score at home, the first game we see in the film is Double Dragon.
-It’s here we meet Haley, another runaway who’s nosy as hell and insists on inserting herself into Cory and Jimmy’s lives. Cory bets her Jimmy can beat her high score at Double Dragon, banking on the myth girls can’t play video games. Stereotypes are confirmed as Jimmy kicks her ass.
– The second video game of the film is Ninja Gaiden, played inside the table of a diner, and Jimmy’s just as good at that, leading to Haley to dub him “a wizard.” This scene is improved greatly by the fact that New Kids on the Block is playing in the background. I assume because Jimmy’s got the right stuff, ooh baby.
-Haley hatches a plan to prove that Jimmy doesn’t belong in a home by having him enter and win Video Armageddon, which judging by the ad is either a video game tournament or some kind of battle to the death.
-I’m pretty sure Jimmy being good at video games isn’t going to make anyone less worried about his complete lack of social skills. Hmm, on second thought, now he just sounds like a typical gamer.
-Next we’ve got two ridiculous scenes, featuring Putnam the Pedophile and Cory’s Dad destroying each other’s vehicles and Cory, Jimmy and Haley being chased around by truckers they hitched a ride with after the truckers find out they have nearly $100 on them. The second scene is far more ridiculous, because it’s a truck full of cows.
-In a surprising show of restraint, the film runs for a whole 27 minutes before the first appearance of Nintendo’s beloved Mario. He pops while Nick is playing Super Mario Brothers 2. This won’t be the last we see of the plumber.
-Short on cash since being robbed by truckers, Cory and Haley resort to having Jimmy hustle people at video games. Like I said, it’s just like Rainman, if the exploitation of the autistic character was more celebrated.
– The trio camp out in a junkyard and Cory shows off how inept he is at packing for a road trip. Some of the things he brought with him include a slingshot, a rubber spider and a Halloween mask.
– More ridiculousness as our heroes hitch a ride with a passing motorcycle gang. It’s like everything they do is exactly the opposite of what their survival instincts are telling them to do.
-We’re treated to another unnecessary long road montage, which ends with the kids traveling in a truck that I swear to god is exactly the same one they were traveling in before. Complete with the same Indian guy riding with them.
-Another video game spotting, this time it’s F-1 Dream, which Jimmy is busily hustling people on.
– Now, up until this point in the film, we’ve really lacked an antagonist. Sure, Putnam is obviously a villain, but so far he’s only been a hassle for Cory’s father, which Cory, Haley and Jimmy are largely undisturbed. That is, until now. Meet Lucas, the baddest video gamer on the planet.
-Lucas has 97 video games and he’s good at all of them. This is supposed to be impressive and intimidating, but Lucas is awful at delivering his lines. But that’s okay, because Nintendo had a secret plan to make sure Lucas came off as a threat. Behold, THE POWER GLOVE!
-In reality, it was a completely terrible and borderline useless accessory. In the world of The Wizard? It’s fucking Excalibur. Really though, it just comes off as a poorly performing Wii.
-Lucas uses it to rack up a ridiculous score on Rad Racer, before dropping the film’s most memorable line “I love the Power Glove…it’s so bad.” I personally love the way he whispers that last part like its dirty little secret. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZErvASwdlU
-If you’re wondering where the actor playing Lucas is today, you can find him on the New York State Sex Offender Registry. http://www.homefacts.com/offender-detail/NY20653/Jack-Vinson.html I’m guessing Nintendo regrets this casting decision.
-Elsewhere, Nick and his father have trouble communicating, and that leads to Nick playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a game the two will eventually bond over.
-There are some touching moments where Cory realizes Jimmy is jealous of his developing relationship with Haley, but Nintendo knows kids don’t have long attention spans, so the group is soon chased through a field by some of the guys they hustled. They’re apparently upset they got $20 off them.
-We learn Jimmy’s been carrying around a lunchbox full of pictures of his twin sister, who drowned in a river a few years earlier. Nick was supposed to be watching her and got some of the blame for her death, which resulted in the family splitting up. So this is a case where the divorce was entirely the kid’s fault. Good message Nintendo.
-Cory and Haley get into a fight that includes several childish lines about liking each other, only to immediately reconcile upon Jimmy announcing that he doesn’t want to give up.
-Elsewhere, the battle between Cory’s dad and Putnam escalates to new and more dangerous levels.
-Just kidding, that whole scene is accompanied by some joyous banjo music and the whole thing is played off like a big joke. Attempted vehicular homicide: It’s hilarious!
That’s where I’m going to leave this review for now, because I’ve clearly misjudged just how much I’d write about it. So much for it being a shorter form of reviews. So, coming up tomorrow, the epic conclusion to The Wizard, it’s a breast touching, Mario playing, warp whistling, King Kong visiting thrill ride! Brought to you by Nintendo, remember kids: Run away from home and play video games.