I regularly find myself thinking about what I consider quite possibly the greatest movie of all time. When I catch myself thinking about it I wonder if anyone wants to talk about it, probably not, because it’s only my favorite movie. My friends have gotten tired of hearing about and quite honestly; I’m made fun of more than I’m related too. I’m no fool and know that this isn’t the Godfather, and I know that this movie isn’t even in the top 100,000 movies of all time.
Over time when I’ve told people what my favorite movie is I have to preface it with why I love it, it’s not exactly like saying Pulp Fiction and you don’t have to question it. Today I was reminded of this movie and thought I’d take a minute flushing out what many consider the greatest commercial of all time, and what I consider my favorite movie of all time:
No, I’m not talking about The Wiz with Michael Jackson. I’m talking about the cross-country adventure starring Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, and Jenny Lewis (aka the singer in Rilo Kelly). The film was directed by Todd Holland who later went on and hit his stride in the TV world by co executive producing Malcolm in the Middle, and has directed many other things.
Where to start… Ah yes, the basic premise: Fred Savage finds out his ex step mother is going to put his half brother Jimmy (Edwards) in a home because he’s a quiet guy who keeps to himself and seemingly has some kind of mental issues. As it stands now, Savage is living with his dad (Bridges of course was previously married to Savages ex step mom) and his brother (Slater).
Savage isn’t having any of this, he grew close to Jimmy while they were all growing up together, upon learning the news and in a fit of rage he locks himself in his bedroom and proceeds to throw darts at his map of the USA. First nailing a few less than desirable locations, but ultimately landing on CALIFORNIA. Enter: The plan unfolding behind his Fred Savage expressions. He proceeds to take 72 dollars, his skateboard, and his 1980’s backpack. Grabs his partially despondent half brother and said “We’re going to California” to which Jimmy replies with a phrase that may go down in motion picture history as the most underrated 1 word delivery ever: “California.”
And they’re off. It’s an adventure, 2 kids heading from Utah trying to make it to San Francisco because Savage has questionable aim with his darts. En route they pull off at a bus station and everything changes. Savage sticks Jimmy on Double Dragon to occupy the time and Jimmy (somehow) ends up racking 50,000 points in about 4 minutes of playtime. What the Fuck! Why what the fuck!? Well…. That’s a lot. At the same stop Savage meets a girl – Haley (Lewis), she convinces them they should hustle people en route to California, but ultimately they should go to the video game Championships of the world, which happens to be located at Universal City in California. Otherwise known as: Video Armageddon.
Wait… wasn’t this supposed to be just a premise? Premises are usually something like 1 or 2 lines that says: A boy and his kid brother take an adventure cross country to play in the video game championships of the world. But movies are so much more than a 1 line premise, well they are and they aren’t, but this one is.
En route to California they proceed to experience a man chasing them, an antagonist named Lucas Barton, Reno, Truck Drivers, The Power Glove, video games, and then more video games. Finally and ultimately culminating in a video game showdown between the kid brother and Lucas Barton, as they face off in the, up until now never revealed: SUPER MARIO BROTHER PART 3!
If you have any remembrance of this moment of time and seeing this movie then something you may have retained that this was basically a 1 hour and 40 minute commercial for Nintendo. When you’re a kid you don’t think about what movies mean, but rather you’re brainwashed by that exact subliminal meaning. I can sit here and say that in 1989 all I cared about was the adventure and how much fun they’re having… I was a kid, I enjoyed every second of it, and that’s why this movie my greatest movie of all time - It’s because of what happened to me after I saw the movie.
Sure, I went home and started to plant hints of wanting Mario 3 when it comes out, so that aspect of the brainwashing worked. But something bigger happened, and it was at that moment that I knew I wanted to move to California. I wanted to take a cross-country adventure to Universal Studios and make movies in any way shape or form. I was all in for movies. Somehow The Wizard managed to snap some internal thing inside of me that said “Your road will take you to California.”
Many years later it did. I booked it out of Wisconsin and headed to California sans a skateboard and kid brother – arguably all because of THE WIZARD. Sure, there are about 100 other things that I imagined differently at this point, but who cares – I’m here.
I should probably quit with the sentimental Wizard look back because I’m about to shed a tear and I’m contemplating a road trip elsewhere. I think the only other thing fitting is to jump into a list. I give you:
More Reasons As To Why The Wizard Is Quite Possibly The Greatest Movie Of All Time:
I mentioned Fred Savage was in this, right? How underrated is this guy? He didn’t pull the typical child actor shit and go druggy on us (maybe he did actually) he managed to keep his nose clean and go on to do great parts in Austin Powers and is currently directing and creating TV shows.
The. Power. Glove. How ahead of the game was the Power Glove? This movie made this glove look so cool that it’s actually difficult to explain. If you don’t know what the power glove is just take a look at the clip at the bottom of the post. It pretty much sums up The Wizard.
EXTRAS! Spiderman aka Tobey McGuire played the antagonist’s friend, number of words he spoke: 0. Punky Brewster aka errr… Punky Brewster was an extra. Number of words she spoke: 0. For the record I don’t know what happened to Punky, all I know is that she saved Cherry’s life when she was stuck in the fridge and she was on the cover of People magazine for getting a breast reduction.
Christian Slater. Need I say any more? This was pre 90’s heartthrob Slater by the way, and the casting was clearly ahead of its time. Speaking of casting…
Mali Finn was the casting director. Although IMDB says it’s Sally Lear, I’m willing to bet my VHS and DVD copy of The Wizard on this - IMDB is wrong. Unfortunately Finn passed away in 07 but I note her as the casting director simply because she had the eye… She was huge! She did movies like The Matrix, Terminator, Mission Impossible, basically if it was a good movie she may have been attached to it.
Adventure. I said it above but I’ll say it again. If you can somehow harness adventure in a kid’s movie then you’ve won.
The homage to Nintendo is to good to ignore. I admit, it’s a commercial… But everything about this movie made Nintendo that much better.
The climax in this movie is priceless. I don’t know what I love more, the fact that they’re playing a new Mario game or the fact that Jimmy inexplicably knows all the warp zones and how to use the secret flute.
Kids gambling: This is arguably the first movie where a 12 year girl is telling a 30 year old man how to gamble – and win! I wonder how she got into the casino in the first place? Who cares, they won.
The Title: The Wizard. I wonder how many name changes this movie went through. It’s not as though they call Jimmy the Wizard in every other scene, it’s actually only referenced once. I know that this movie was once called “Joystick Hero’s” - if someone can find me previous titles send them to me.
Quick complaint: Why the fuck are there no special features on the DVD!? Who does that?
Just do yourself a favor and revisit the classic. If you have kids show them – tell them about the archaic time when we had to use our hands to play 8 bit video games. The Power Glove, it’s so bad…