Disney certainly knows when to move on to the next money maker. This is especially true of the young female teenagers they employ to star in their popular sitcoms. First, it was Hilary Duff, then it was Raven, and now more recently Miley Cyrus. Now that Hannah Montana’s reign is about to be over, it’s time to move on, and Disney has been preparing for this moment for a couple of years now. Today’s “it” girl is actually two girls in Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. Each of them have taken turns in starring in various films, shows, music videos, etc. Gomez got her big break with the Wizards of Waverly Place. It’s only natural for it to have it’s own full-length movie just like Hannah Montana. Except this film was stuck to get HUGE ratings on the Disney Channel rather than at the movie theaters.
The show is about three siblings, Alex Russo (Selena Gomez), Justin Russo (David Henrie), and Max Russo (Jake T. Austin), with magical abilities. The three Russo siblings are wizards in training and live with their Italian-American father Jerry (David DeLuise), a former wizard, and their Mexican-American mother, Theresa (Maria Canals Barrera), who is a mortal. Only one of the kids can eventually become a full-time wizard, because those are the rules, while the other two will resort back to being mortals.
In the WoWP movie, the Russo family is planning a vacation to the Caribbean. Headstrong teen daughter Alex would rather stay at home with her best friend. On the eve of the departure, Alex uses her magical powers to transport the family business to a party she’s not allowed to attend. That causes her parents to force Alex to go on the vacation with them as a punishment. Theresa makes it clear to all her kids that there will be no magic on this vacation. That doesn’t stop Alex from making a wish, with wand in hand, that her parents would have never met. It works, of course, but Alex and her two brothers aren’t immediately erased from existence. It turns out that her parents are still in the Caribbean with them, but they are people they were before they had kids. Now Alex, Justin, and Max have 48 hours to undo the spell before it becomes permanent. So Alex and Justin trek off to the jungle to find the “Stone of Dreams”, which will make things right. They receive some assistance from Archie (Steve Valentine), a hack street magician who claims he’s a cursed ex-wizard and his parrot Giselle used to be his wife. Meanwhile, Max must work to set up his future parents to meet each other and fall in love again.
If you just read that plot, a couple of movies should come to mind immediately if you are at least a decade older than the target audience of this film. The first obvious film is Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future. Just like this film, Marty McFly must make his parents fall in love again, and if he doesn’t, he will no longer exist. Parents of the target audience might even be more familiar with the special Brady Bunch Hawaiian episodes. This film certainly looks it was shot in the same location. Finally, with all the jungle adventure stuff and the search for a magic stone, it’s very similar to any Indiana Jones film. But this is a Disney Channel sitcom, so you shouldn’t be totally shocked by the lack of originality.
What the film does have going for it is the production values. The budget is much bigger than a TV episode so it certainly looks better than the original series. But the special effects aren’t the best and this film will never be confused with any Harry Potter film, despite it wanting to be just that at time. Fans of the TV series will be plenty familiar with the characters and probably happy to see a big “game-changing” twist at the end of the film. Those who are alien to the show, though, will likely find some characters not very likable. This is especially true of Alex in the beginning. She changes, of course, because there is a predictable message in this film as well. That being that love, especially in a family, conquers all when you work together. You can’t go wrong there.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and drama for its target audience, and it’s glossy look will have them wondering, “why can’t the TV show look like this?” Those not wanting to hang out with these wizards for two hours, you’re better off sticking with films featuring Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, or Marty McFly. This is just a more kid-friendly package of those films.
The video is given in widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The colors are bright and all the details are vivid. Pretty much the above-average quality you expect from a Disney Channel movie. No major problems here.
The audio included is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. No major problems here either.
“Insider’s Exclusive: On Location” Featurette –
This runs 10 minutes and it’s your basic behind-the-scenes/making-of featurette. They discuss the effects, stunts, props, and animals used in this film, among other things. Basically, all the usual extras are rolled into one here. Probably will only interest fans of this show.
“Stone of Dreams” Key Chain –
The special edition DVD set of this film include a “mood ring”-like key chain. There is a stone that is supposed to change colors when you put pressure on it with your hands. You can see 1 of 6 colors. There is a description as to what each color means as well.
Fans of the television series will no doubt enjoy this movie. But if you’re not under the age of 18, it may be best to stay away.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. Directed by Lev L. Spiro. Starring Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin, Jennifer Stone, Maria Canals-Barrera, Steve Valentine, Xavier Torres, Jennifer Alden, and David DeLuise. Written by Dan Berendsen and Todd J. Greenwald. Running time: 98 minutes. Rated: G. Released on DVD: December 15, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Back to the Future, Disney, Hannah Montana, miley cyrus, Wizards of Waverly Place