Jamie and Patrick walk the streets of New York City. “We need rulez,” Patrick says, pounding his fist into his gloved hand and pulling his coat tight against the winter chill. No matter how many crisp, cool Bud Lights they drink they keep arriving back at the standard 9 rulez of BMT. Jamie stops and pulls out the laminated BMT rule card they carry around. Number 1 was “Full Body Burns = Rad.” He considers this rule but can’t find fault with it. “They are rad,” he mumbles, disappointed. Suddenly Patrick has an idea. He takes out a marker and uses it to cross out Rule #1 in order to write “CGI.” Jamie frowns, but has to admit that pretty much everything great now has lots of CGI. “So you’re saying we just have to come up with equal but opposite rulez for GMT. OK. Well what’s rule number 2?” Jamie asks, hoping this one works out better. Patrick looks at the card again, “Uh, let’s see. Rule #2 – Settings = Awesome” Now they’re both frowning. Settings are awesome. Who doesn’t like a big time film set at Christmas, New Years, or the Fourth of July? Who wouldn’t want to watch a Hawaii vacation, a glamorous Hollywood night, or a crazy time in the Big Ap… suddenly they stop. They look around at winter in NYC. The cold skyscrapers. The slushy streetz. The salt strewn sidewalks. “Too gritty,” Patrick says. “Too grand,” Jamie agrees. “We need to get out of this dump. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Patrick asks. Jamie nods his head and croons, “Delaware,” extending the word for real effect. With that they cross off Rule #2 and replace it with “Settings = Boring.” Patrick puts on a pair of real cool sunglasses and smirks, “That’s wizard.” That’s right! We’re not heading to Delaware, we’re heading to Caaallliiifffoorrrnniiiaaa for a viewing of the cult classic (at least in our cult) The Wizard. Starring Fred Savage (but let’s be real, mostly Super Mario Bros 3) this was a staple of our childhood. It’s time to revisit it and see what all the hubbub was about. I’m sure it’s wizard. Let’s go!
The Wizard (1989) – BMeTric: 27.2; Notability: 22
StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 12.8%; Notability: top 21.6%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 18.3%; Higher BMeT: Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Wild Orchid, Cyborg, The Karate Kid Part III, The Fly II, No Holds Barred, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Cutting Class, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, DeepStar Six, Pink Cadillac, The Toxic Avenger Part II, Shocker, The Punisher, The January Man, The Horror Show, Leviathan, and 12 more; Higher Notability: Tango & Cash, Troop Beverly Hills, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Fletch Lives, Harlem Nights, Leviathan, Listen to Me, Lock Up, Pink Cadillac, Family Business, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Millennium, Three Fugitives, Dead Bang, Let It Ride, Renegades, Slaves of New York, The Karate Kid Part III, and 34 more; Lower RT: Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Worth Winning, The Toxic Avenger Part II, The Horror Show, Stepfather II: Make Room for Daddy, Night Game, Second Sight, Wired, Dream a Little Dream, No Holds Barred, Rooftops, Wild Orchid, She’s Out of Control, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Millennium, Chattahoochee, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, The Blood of Heroes, and 23 more; Notes: I mean, those scores look right for a not-so-bad masterpiece right? For a film where I knew at the end I would say “sure me I liked it.”
RogerEbert.com – 1.0 stars – “The Wizard” is one of those movies that provokes the Hey, Wait a Minute Syndrome – you know, the kind where you keep saying things like, “Hey, wait a minute. How could a 9-year-old boy walk miles along a desert highway without being noticed?” Or “Wait a minute. Do you mean to say a trucker wouldn’t even stop if he saw two little kids coasting down an interstate highway on a skateboard?” Or “Wait a minute. Do businessmen on their lunch hours really gamble on video games with little kids?” Or “Wait a minute. Could three little kids (for their ranks have swelled by now) really make it from Utah to Los Angeles without anything terrible happening to them?” But wait a minute. I know, I know, “The Wizard” is only a silly Christmas kiddie movie, and we aren’t supposed to ask questions like that. But we must. In an age when child abduction is the subject of half the TV docudramas and all of the milk cartons, how are we supposed to blind ourselves to the central fact of this movie, which is that a 13-year-old boy and his 9-year-old brother, accompanied part of the way by a 13-year-old girl, manage to walk, hitchhike and con themselves all the way from Utah to the National Video Game Championships in L.A.? The movie is filled with shots of these little kids walking down highways, and hitching rides, and walking into bars and video parlors and Reno gambling casinos, and there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t question the sanity of the film and fear for their safety. It was only after the three kids arrived safely at the championships that I began to question the ethics of the film, which is, among other things, a thinly disguised commercial for Nintendo video games and the Universal studio tour.
(Honestly, Roger Ebert nailing it. This film reads much much much differently as an adult than as a child. Much like Dutch, you see the penultimate scene in that film and think about the kid walking along a highway and think that Dutch is a psycho. This is the same. As a kid it seems like magical nonsense. As an adult it is a harrowing tale of three children almost getting killed on the highways of America. And yeah … it is all under the guise of a commercial specifically for Super Mario Bros. 3.)
(A touch of romance? Kids’ films are so weird. And this one especially. It is a real trip, traveling a thousand miles across the country is just very stress inducing. And then this trailer being maybe the first real life footage of Super Mario 3 people saw? Wowza.)
Directors – Todd Holland – ( Future BMT: Krippendorf’s Tribe; Firehouse Dog; BMT: The Wizard; Notes: Mostly a television director. He created and wrote Wonderfalls, including directing 5 episodes.)
Writers – David Chisholm – ( BMT: The Wizard; Notes: Wrote a show called Over My Dead body which has 51 votes on IMDb … dare me to watch all of it? I’ll make a podcast about it. Mostly wrote TV movies.)
Actors – Fred Savage – ( Known For: The Princess Bride; Austin Powers in Goldmember; The Rules of Attraction; Little Monsters; The Boy Who Could Fly; Vice Versa; The Last Run; Future BMT: Super Troopers 2; BMT: The Wizard; Welcome to Mooseport; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for Daddy Day Camp in 2008; Notes: Was nominated for two Emmys for The Wonder Years. Does a ton of television directing now. Too bad we can’t watch Little Monsters for BMT. Only 9 reviews though so … maybe someday.)
Luke Edwards – ( Known For: American Pie 2; The Super; Malicious; Mother’s Boys; Guilty by Suspicion; A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff; Future BMT: Newsies; Jeepers Creepers 2; Little Big League; BMT: The Wizard; Notes: Still acts a ton on television. Including an episode of NCIS, noice.)
Jenny Lewis – ( Known For: Bolt; Pleasantville; Don’s Plum; Foxfire; Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even; Little Boy Blue; Trading Hearts; Future BMT: Troop Beverly Hills; BMT: The Wizard; Notes: A genuine rock star, she was lead vocals for the band Rilo Kiley and even apparently did some backup vocals for The Postal Service.)
Budget/Gross – $6 million / Domestic: $14,278,900 (Worldwide: $14,278,900)
(Actually, that’s fine. A $6 million dollar commercial and certainly they got their money’s worth. And guess what? Super Mario Bros. 3? Huge game. So yet more proof that The Wizard was indeed wizard.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 27% (6/22)
(Oooo a consensus: This can join Mac and Me and Leonard Part 6 as one of the great movies-that-are-actually-commericals. And it’s also the best of the bunch.)
Reviewer Highlight: Video-addicted kids may well find this exciting, but for anyone old enough to stay out later than 9 P.M. it’s a distinct bore. – Janet Maslin, New York Times
Poster – The Sklizzard
(Hell yeah. I love my Wizard poster. It’s so bad. That’s so bad, in fact, that its come back around and is now an A. Too much nonsense to really comment on. Besides Mario are the other video game images from games? What game is that snake from? A+ font work. When I’m teaching my poster analysis class this will be the font example.)
Tagline(s) – They’re on a cross-country adventure to the world’s greatest video championship. It’s more than a game…it’s the chance of a lifetime. (C)
(Nope. I’ve already stopped reading. Why not just that last sentence. It’s more than a game… it’s the change of a lifetime. That’s good. You ruined it with all those other words.)
Keyword(s) – good
Top 10: Good Will Hunting (1997), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), The Great Gatsby (2013), Hot Fuzz (2007), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Man on Fire (2004), The Nice Guys (2016)
Future BMT: 67.3 Phat Girlz (2006), 63.2 Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015), 60.6 Like a Boss (2020), 56.2 The Fly II (1989), 51.7 Playing with Fire (2019), 51.6 The Boss (2016), 51.0 Johnny Be Good (1988), 50.6 The Hot Chick (2002), 49.9 Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), 48.4 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), 47.1 Barney’s Great Adventure (1998), 45.1 Fly Me to the Moon 3D (2007), 44.9 Fantastic Four (2005), 40.4 No Good Deed (2014), 39.4 Good Burger (1997), 37.2 The Great Wall (2016), 37.0 Stroker Ace (1983), 36.3 Milk Money (1994), 34.6 Mad Money (2008), 34.3 Mo’ Money (1992)
BMT: Epic Movie (2007), Fantastic Four (2015), The Ridiculous 6 (2015), Cool as Ice (1991), Cool World (1992), A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), Hot Pursuit (2015), One for the Money (2012), Fire Down Below (1997), Air Bud: Golden Receiver (1998), Fire Birds (1990), Good Luck Chuck (2007), Be Cool (2005), Chill Factor (1999), Money Train (1995), Hot to Trot (1988), The Golden Child (1986), Righteous Kill (2008), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), The Wizard (1989), Hunter Killer (2018)
Best Options (Comedy): 67.3 Phat Girlz (2006), 63.2 Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (2015), 60.6 Like a Boss (2020), 51.7 Playing with Fire (2019), 51.6 The Boss (2016), 51.0 Johnny Be Good (1988), 50.6 The Hot Chick (2002), 49.9 Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988), 47.1 Barney’s Great Adventure (1998), 39.4 Good Burger (1997), 37.0 Stroker Ace (1983), 36.3 Milk Money (1994), 34.6 Mad Money (2008), 34.3 Mo’ Money (1992), 32.1 Good Deeds (2012), 31.3 The Nude Bomb (1980), 28.8 A Good Man in Africa (1994), 27.1 The Wizard (1989), 24.5 Money Talks (1997), 24.0 Isn’t She Great (2000), 22.3 Hot Pursuit (1987), 21.9 Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), 21.6 For Love or Money (1993), 19.1 Other People’s Money (1991), 14.3 Hot Rod (2007), 10.6 A Good Year (2006)
(So many good options here, but you best believe we weren’t giving up an opportunity to use the word “wizard” as slang for good. Also, The Wizard is a film I’ve seen four or five times and I kind of unironically love it as a kids’ movie.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 17) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Christian Slater is No. 5 billed in The Wizard and No. 4 billed in Mindhunters, which also stars LL Cool J (No. 3 billed) who is in Rollerball (No. 2 billed) which also stars Chris Klein (No. 1 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 2 billed) => (5 + 4) + (3 + 2) + (1 + 2) = 17. There is no shorter path at the moment.
Notes – The movie has developed a cult following, with movie-themed retro gaming tournaments hosted across the country. Luke Edwards, Fred Savage, and Jenny Lewis have made appearances at these events.
Beau Bridges and Christian Slater both admitted they had little to no interest in video games when they were cast. They played during filming, and became fans.
The dinosaurs in the film are a real-life tourist attraction at what was once the Wheel Inn Restaurant in Cabazon, CA, near Palm Springs. They also appeared in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and in the music video for Night Ranger: Sing Me Away (1983).
Participating theaters distributed issues of “Pocket Power,” a pocket-sized version of “Nintendo Power” magazine.
The original pitch for the movie was “The Karate Kid (1984), but with video games.”
The literal translations of some of this film’s foreign language titles include: “Joy Stick Heroes” (Germany), “Sweet Road” (Japan), “The Wizard of Videogames” (Italy and Brazil), “Videokid” (France), “The Champion of Videogames” (Spain), “Gameboy” (Sweden), “Game Over” (Finland), and “The Child Genius” (Canadian French).
When Lucas plays Rad Racer (1987) with his Power Glove, he presses five keys that each play a different musical note. The 5 sequential tones is the famous five-tone musical phrase in a major scale (D’ E’ C’ C G) that the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) used to communicate with the Earthlings, and vice versa.
Haley finds the Video Armageddon ad in the July 1989 issue of Video Games and Computer Entertainment. The cover story is the US debut of the TurboGrafx-16 by NEC Home Electronics and designed by Hudson Soft. It had been released 2 years earlier in Japan, as the PC Engine, and outsold its competitors there, including the Famicom (the Japanese name of the Nintendo Entertainment System). It was less successful in the US.
The smoking effects on the casserole seen early in the film were done using a technique called “AB Smoke,” in which one chemical is applied to a surface, and another is later applied, which reacts with it, creating the smoke effect.
After several rejections, the producers got permission to shoot in a Reno casino when they let a state official’s kids meet Fred Savage, who was also starring on The Wonder Years (1988) at the time. The state official’s kids were filmed as extras, but according to the special edition Blu-ray commentary, their scenes were cut.
The tour guide at Universal Studios mentioned a movie title Mayhem in Monte Carlo starring Zsa Zsa Gabor and Paul Reubens (as Pee Wee Herman) in the romantic leads. The movie doesn’t exist.
The truck that Spankey is driving when the trucks block the road in front of the P.I. is the same truck used in Over the Top (1987) starring Sylvester Stallone as Hawk. It still has HAWK written on the door.
The structure Jimmy builds with toy blocks in the beginning resembles the Video Armageddon stage at the end of the film.
Even tho he is uncredited Toby maguire first movie appearance extra.