You ever remember more about the people who wanted to see a certain film and not the film? When The Wizard came out in the winter of 1989, anyone I knew that was curious about the movie was more pumped about a chance to see a sneak preview of Super Mario 3 for the Nintendo. Than could care less about the story or Fred Savage. They wanted to see the new features and screens for their favorite video game character. What was there more to The Wizard than a promotional element for Nintendo? Watching The Wizard: Collector’s Edition more than 30 years later shows that there was more to the film than a kid playing a videogame and worshipping Super Mario.
The first thing to understand about the movie is that the plot isn’t a rip off of Rain Man. Jimmy Woods (Little Big League‘s Luke Edwards) has been severely traumatized after watching his twin sister drown to death. For a few years he’s been unable to communicate with his family. He keeps running away from home with the only hint about why is saying, “California.” His father (The Fabulous Baker Boys‘ Beau Bridges) can’t deal with him and sends him off to a mental institute for kids. Jimmy’s brother Corey (The Wonder Years‘ Fred Savage) gets fed up with his dad and breaks his sibling out. He thinks California might lead to a break through. What Corey doesn’t count of is that not only his dad and older brother (Heathers‘ Christian Slater) would come looking for him, but a bounty hunter is on their trail. This isn’t good for the duo in Utah since they have only a few bucks in a lunchbox. They end up getting a little traveling assistance from Haley Brooks (A Very Murray Christmas‘ Jenny Lewis) who is traveling home. Corey discovers that his brother has a knack for video games that makes them reroute their trip to Video Armageddon at Universal Studios. But can they really win with so many people chasing them down?
The film does act as a bit of Nintendo product reel.They introduce the Power Glove and show off it’s capability to make game play more intense than merely pressing buttons on a joystick. The kids call the Nintendo Power Line to get pro tips on how to play the various games that will be part of Video Armageddon. This was a real phone bank and amazingly was “free” during the era of 900 phone numbers. Of course you had to pay long distance fees which were about 20 cents a minute in 1989. Most importantly was the sneak peak at Super Mario 3. But it’s not a 24 fps Toys ‘r’ Us catalog. The opening act is pretty much game free. There is quite a bit of heart in this road movie. Corey wants his brother to snap out of his detached nature. He also wants his family restored that was torn apart by the death of his younger sister. The Wizard is more than a promotional video for Nintendo’s upcoming products although that’s part of the fun.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The Blu-ray upgrade lets you see more of the details in Super Mario 3. The nostalgia will flow from the screen. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo. The levels are good for the road elements. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with Director Todd Holland has him immediately thank the fans who put out the support to get a Collector’s Edition bonus feature. He talks a bit about how you could do a lot more for a film aimed at kids with bad language and forgetting to put on seatbelts. Holland did two other films, but his legacy comes from shooting 52 of the 90 episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and two episodes of Twin Peaks.
Never-Before-Released Deleted Scenes (37:54) has a lot of the early scenes that were snipped to speed up the story. During a videogame playing sequence, they have to blur a TV showing Lost In Space.
Trailers (2:02) shows the secret of Jimmy during his cross country run.
The Road to Cali-forn-ia (40:45) is a look back at The Wizard includes brand-new interviews with Todd Holland, stars Fred Savage and Luke Edwards, writer/producer David Chisholm; producer Ken Topolsky; and more. Chisholm talks about how the project was pitched to him as The Karate Kid with Nintendo instead of karate. They were up against two deadlines: an actor’s strike and the release of a videogame.
How Can I Help You? Confessions of a Game Play Counselor (5:52) has Greg Lowder talking about doing the real job of helping Nintendo players on the games. It wasn’t a 900 call. He compares his time on the phone to the hotline actor in the movie.
A Clinical Analysis of The Wizard (12:48) has Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist point out how there’s more going on in the film than a video game commercial. She sees the film as the way the kids relate after a serious trauma.
Post Screening Q&A From Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019 (57:10) with Luke Edwards, David Chisholm, and Ken Topolsky on the panel. They go into the production, the release and the legacy of the film.
Photo Gallery has publicity pics and more.
Shout! Factory present The Wizard: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: Todd Holland. Screenplay by: David Chisholm. Starring: Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater & Beau Bridges. Rated: PG. Running Time: 100 minutes. Released: March 24, 2020.
Tags: Fred Savage, Shout Select, Super Mario Bros., The Wizard