We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
Happy Mar10 Day! With today being March 10 (Mario Day), I felt it would be appropriate to dig into a movie featuring Nintendo’s poster boy–1989’s The Wizard starring Fred Savage. Did you catch The Wizard back in the day? I missed it back then but caught it a few years ago. Check out the trailer for The Wizard and we’ll get started with #WayBackWednesday.
The Wizard is a fascinating cross of video game promotion and 80s nostalgia, wrapping a story of grief and trauma in a quirky little family film. The Wizard tells the story of a family that’s been torn apart by divorce and the death of a child. The film stars Fred Savage, Jenny Lewis, Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, and Luke Edwards as the titular Wizard.
Jimmy (Luke Edwards) is suffering PTSD from the trauma of watching his twin sister drown two years previous and his parents’ marriage crumble in its wake. His older brothers, Corey (Fred Savage) and Nick (Christian Slater) try to be there for him, but his trauma has rendered him practically speechless, save for one word– ”California.” In a quest to help his brother, Corey breaks Jimmy out of the mental institution to which he’s been committed and takes him on the road trip of his life–to the “Video Armageddon” tournament in California. Along the way, they meet up with Haley (Jenny Lewis) and are on the run from a professional runaway catcher sent by their stepfather. Their father, Sam (Beau Bridges), and brother, Nick are in pursuit as well. The journey this film takes is full of madcap adventure, gaming, and 80s delight. Here are a few reasons that I enjoy The Wizard.
I grew up on the tail end of the arcade craze. I would beg to go play arcade games whenever I saw one. I also wanted nothing more than a NES (never owned one until I was an adult) and snatched up every bit of Mario merchandise I could get my hands on. If I had known about The Wizard as a kid, I would have never stopped watching it.
Winning video game tournaments and gaining renown for my Nintendo prowess would have been on my 6-year-old bucket list. Nintendo licensed the film for the use of its products and saw it as a way to promote its games. Super Mario Bros. 3 features heavily in the film, as well as the ill-fated peripheral, the Nintendo Power Glove. I remember seeing commercials and comic book ads for the Nintendo Power Glove and just salivating over it. It looked so futuristic and cool! While the Power Glove ultimately wasn’t a great controller, the aesthetic still looks futuristic and slick, adding a bit of wow factor to the film. If you enjoy retro gaming or classic Nintendo, The Wizard is the film for you.
I’m a sucker for 80s rock and pop, so the soundtrack really gets me. Notable cuts are “Hangin’ Tough” and “(You’ve Got It) The Right Stuff” by New Kids on the Block and “Send Me an Angel” by Real Life. Adding the music to the 1980s scenery and aesthetic hits my retro-obsessed heart in all the right spots. This is especially true in all the arcade scenes. If you want to give this a listen, you can check out the entire soundtrack for The Wizard on Spotify.
Deep Cut Cast
If you’d like to see a great cast before they were a real “Who’s Who”, The Wizard is a great place to start. Fred Savage had already risen to stardom through his role in The Princess Bride and had just started his leading role on The Wonder Years. Christian Slater had starred earlier that year in Heathers and would jump in just a few years’ time to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as Will Scarlett. Jenny Lewis, while having numerous acting roles as a young girl, is probably better known to modern audiences for her work as a musician in Rilo Kiley and The Postal Service. Beau Bridges, brother of Jeff Bridges, would later be better known for his work on Stargate SG-1 and Homeland. You can even spot a young, mulleted Tobey Maguire in his very first, albeit uncredited, film role.
I could go on, but if you like to be the person at parties that rattles off movie fun facts, The Wizard is perfect fodder for your movie trivia-loving mind.
Does any of this sound like you? Want a movie to watch on Mar10 Day without torturing yourself with Super Mario Bros. (1993)? I recommend The Wizard.
The Wizard is available for rent at your local video store or your favorite digital video rental service.