WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After his half brother is committed to an institution, a young boy decides to break his little bro out and run away for good. Along the way, the two meet up with a street smart girl, who takes notice of the younger brother’s expert skill at video games and the three decide to head to California to a big video game championship in search of cash and prizes. (Also note a father, another son, and cheesy bounty hunter in tow!)
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The strangest thing about re-watching this old 1989 film with early Fred Savage and Christian Slater was not just re-visiting the old 80’s schmaltz, but I had a weird feeling that this film was not virgin territory for me as far as reviews go. So I got out some of the old scrapbooks of early newspaper reviews (I’ve been doing this for a long time!) and low and behold, back in June of 1990 I found a review of this very film on video from a much younger version of me – age 15! Not being as skilled with vocabulary back then, I stated that the film was “worth a night’s rental for entertaining the small fry.” It’s hard to say whether or not, over a decade later, if this statement holds true, as THE WIZARD definitely shows its age today. Especially in terms of the video games aspect of the story, which today has left behind the film’s Nintendo roots and replaced it with such sophisticated equipment like Sony PlayStation and virtual reality games. Plus the film’s high 80’s cliché’s – the father and son who can’t get along, the overprotective and highbrow stepfather, the hapless and bumbling bounty hunter – don’t help bring modern audiences into the fold.
As for the performances, back in 1990, I had said that “Savage does not make an award winning performance, but he is believable.” And although the words could’ve used a little finesse, the meaning basically stays the same. All the actors play their safe and geriatric roles to a tee – Bridges as the concerned father, Slater as the rambunctious teen, and Savage as the protective brother – they’re complete cardboard cut-outs. The only really spicy role is by Jenny Lewis, who plays a feisty young girl with an edge. (Though not to edgy, this is a PG rated film, you know!) As far as I see it, THE WIZARD is only for two audiences: young kids who don’t have any concept of today’s high tech video games and those adults who want to fondly look back at the film with a sense of nostalgia. But beware - films are not like wine – age is almost never a friend and even the most powerful wizard, can’t turn back time.
So they finally decide to release this film on DVD with….no damn extras!!!! That’s right folks, Universal has universally included no commentaries, no featurettes, hell not even stills. My question - with no additions, what is the point of releasing this 1989 film on DVD now, in 2006? Possible answer - some things are not worth waiting for.
THE WIZARD, while bring back some fond memories for adults who were fans, does feel heavily dated and may not fly with the PlayStation crowd of today. (Show it to kids who aren’t into games yet!) And while releasing an old late 80’s feel good cheese fest nearly a decade later could almost be forgivable, to add no extras whatsoever sends a clear message to all fans of the film to eat dirt. Do yourself a favor, stick with the old VHS copy of the film and send Universal the same happy middle finger message they appear to be giving you.