The Wizard (1989)

the wizard

“Yeah, well, uh, just keep your Power Gloves off her, pal, huh?”

The Scoop: 1989 PG, directed by Todd Holland and starring Luke Edwards, Fred Savage, and Christian Slater

Tagline: It’s more than a game… It’s the chance of a lifetime.

Summary Capsule: It’s more than an unabashed plug for Nintendo… No, I guess it’s nothing more than that. Sorry.


Justin’s rating: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Justin’s review: Ah, Nintendo. Out of the many facets of my nerdy childhood, Nintendo rises to the top like a dead rat floating in a vat of cream. Do rats eat cream? Maybe this one was just on holiday. No matter — the point is that after the video game crash of 1983 (non-nerds: this really did happen), we didn’t have much to live for. Sure, schooling, decent health care coverage and fruit roll-ups helped a little, but it wasn’t until a few years later when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) swept the country and became the new obsession of our impressionable lives.

Is it sad that I can still remember the first time I played Super Mario Bros. on my friend’s console, the day after Christmas? Is it even sadder that my brothers and I were not allowed to get a NES, and instead had to wait until the SNES came out? You may contribute to Justin’s Second Childhood Fund to help heal wounds.

The Wizard occupies quite a few important roles in the life of a Nintendo addict, but none of them is “a good movie.” Let’s be frank: This is a dull, somewhat sappy road travel flick starring That Wonder Years Kid (Fred Savage) and some other twerps who do little other than advertise for Big N. Corey’s (Savage) little brother Jimmy (Luke Edwards) is autistic or traumatized or something, and Corey decides against his three parents’ wishes to spring Jimmy from a mental institution and bring him on a cross-country trip to California.

Even though the movie shows them riding skateboards down highways while semis jag around them, and even though they go ahead and camp in the middle of the desert, nobody seems to die. Kids, road trips are just that fun!

I’m sure they have a good reason to go to California, but all you’ll remember from this flick is Nintendo, Nintendo, NINTENDO! Along the way, Jimmy plays a bit of Double Dragon at a bus stop and learns that he has special video game skillz that will enable him to live a long and happy life until he dies from a seizure due to the flickering screens at age 19. Haley (Jenny Lewis), another kid on the road with nothing to fear from perverts and coyotes, convinces them they should go enter a grand Nintendo tournament to win $50,000.

It is said, it is done.

The Wizard has gained cult status for its slavish devotion to all things Nintendo, putting its entire product catalogue on the screen for you to enjoy and, hopefully, to buy. Nowhere is this more apparent than a scene where Jimmy’s rival Lucas demonstrates the awesome abilities of The Power Glove. Now, the Power Glove was an odd controller for the NES that required you to wear a huge glove that really did very little, but the movie treats it with such awe, such holy reverence that all of the witnesses to its mighty power are left speechless. That is, until Lucas gives us one of the film’s most memorable lines: “I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad.”

I hear that actor still wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, haunted by those words.

By and large, The Wizard is best viewed as an oddity and not so much for any film making or acting talents (even with the suave presence of Christian Slater). It marked the beginning of an early-1990s era where movies based on video games would be slung out at audiences, who’d just sling them right on back. It also taught us that you can get any adult arrested by screaming out that they touched your no-no’s. Good times.

This is what we considered "bad to the bone" back in '89.
This is what we considered “bad to the bone” back in ’89.


  • In Germany, this movie was retitled Joystick Heroes.
  • There were difficulties synchronizing the film speed with the video games, due to the differences in speed. Film runs at 24 frames/second, and the games ran at 30 frames/second.
  • How many times Jimmy says “California”?
  • THE POWER GLOVE! Where do you get the silver suitcase accessory, tho?
  • Double Dragon! Rad Racer! Super Mario Bros. 3! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
  • Kids sure have it easy, hitchhiking
  • Warp zones are, like, groovy
  • Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, Contra!
  • It’s the same dinosaur statue from PeeWee’s movie
  • The sounds made by Lucas’ Power Glove as he punches its keys are the famous five tones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • While Jimmy is playing Ninja Gaiden, Hailey says “It’s his second time through and he hasn’t even taken a hit yet”. But the game clearly shows that he has two bars missing on his health meter.
  • How could people in the audience give Jimmy advice on SMB3, since it hadn’t been released yet?

Groovy Quotes

Lucas: Hey, it’s the wizard! I hope you don’t get nervous like last time. We wouldn’t want you to…”wiz” on someone!

Corey: It’s like the Adventures of Link. He has to find Zelda, you have to find a house. Same difference!
Haley: Boy, is THAT sexist.
Corey: It’s not sexist! It’s… romantic.

Corey: Yeah, well, uh, just keep your Power Gloves off her, pal, huh?

Lucas: I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad.

Haley: Aaaaaaaah! He touched my breast!

Haley: Hi, I’m Haley. If you don’t tell me what you’re doing, I’m going to scream.
Corey: Could you scream quietly?
Haley: What do you think I’m stupid?

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