This is part 4 of 5 in my film review series focusing on games and gamers. This week I delve into the murky depths of the 80s when everyone floated and wore primary colour shirts.Â It is time for The Wizard.
After sitting through Stay Alive I didn’t think that there was going to be another contender for ‘Worst Film based around Game Culture’, but after watchingÂ The Wizard I stand corrected.
The film follows a young Jimmy Woods, who might be mentally disturbed and is possibly autistic (the plot doesn’t bother to make up its mind until halfway through). Jimmy likes to play with building blocks, barely says a word and generally confounds medical staff as well as his mother and stepfather.
So, of course, they want to put him in a home.
Enter Jimmy’s older brother Corey, played by Fred Savage. Corey leads a rough life on the father’s side (the dad is played by Beau Bridges) of the estranged family, with only Christian Slater for support. And we know how much that must have felt like being handed an anvil instead of a parachute before jumping out of a plane. The unpopular Bridges brother and druggie fuck-up Slater? Time to run away, Savage!
Corey hatches a plan that seems to involve walking into the troubled Jimmy’s ‘home’ and stealing him from right in front of the orderlies, then getting into a truck in front of several witnesses. Fortunately, due to everyone being massively incompetent, Corey and Jimmy get away and have a chance to meet up with a disturbingly sassy girl called Hayley. They also discover that Jimmy just happens to be amazing at videogames so they decide to con their way to California to win a Nintendo tournament. And also because Jimmy keeps saying “Ca-li-fornia”.
The film then plays out like a combination of Rocky, The Hustler and pure, unadulterated horse manure.
I had actually forgotten how much of an advert this film was for Nintendo products, and aside from people heavily dosed with nostalgia I am not sure how anyone could enjoy this film. I am pretty sure that kids now would watch The Wizard and not really care that they were getting a sneak preview of Super Mario Bros. 3 over twenty years too late.
From a gamer’s perspective the message of the film seems a little warped, not least given that Nintendo’s endorsement should have meant that they wanted to convey video games in a positive light. Instead we learn that videogames may cause you to run away from home, turn you into a dipstick with a power glove or possibly become the most neglectful dad ever.
Of course I am talking about Beau Bridges’ character here; he starts off as a despondent arsehole who spends most of his time trying to encourage his kids to become transients. That’s before he starts playing videogames and turns into the kind of parent that the Daily Mail writes about.
First, instead of spending his time trying to find his kid, or resting to be able to do so the next day, he plays video games.
Later he is prone to the odd bit of violence.
This is just before leaving his older son to fix their broken car from scratch, while he spends the whole time playing videogames.
I am sure this was meant to convey the message that your vidja games were for adults as well as kids, but seriously? Any member of the social services would have had Beau removed from Slater and Savage’s lives.
In addition to this weird conflict between design and the actual conveyed message, the film is sure to veer drunkenly in mood elsewhere. For example, as mentioned, Jimmy seems unreachable at the beginning of the film. He is detached from reality and no one can seem to figure out what is wrong with him.
No one correlates the death of his twin-sister with the time that he stopped talking and that it might be why he is so fucked up.
So it is a given that the kid’s parents, who conveniently never bring this up, would send a severely deranged man to track down their child.
Corey, Jimmy and Hayley make it to California and enter the competition so that they can play some Nintendo games. This may inspire some nostalgia in you but that sentiment is misplaced. Week-old Dominoâ€™s Pizza left on the table in my workplace’s kitchen is fresher than this film.
But there’s always the cameo by Ride with the Devil star Tobey Maguire to cheer everyone up.
Or make them suicidal, I am not sure which.
Director: Todd Holland
Starring: Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Frank McRae
One to ignore: Does it really matter?
One to Watch: Jackey Vinson