The Wizard

The Wizard is a patched together little movie that starts off as a kind of poor relation to Rain Man but then begins to resemble an extended commercial for Nintendo video games.

Is the whole world in on Nintendo? Children, teenagers, and parents evidently are, although there are still some of us who remain uninitiated. The makers of The Wizard assume that audiences are fully appreciative of Nintendo’s dominant place in the universe.

In any case, the movie is about a traumatized little boy who regularly runs away from home. He’s mute and unresponsive, and his mother and mean stepfather are considering putting him in a home.

This raises the ire of the boy’s half-brother (Fred Savage, from TV’s The Wonder Years), who takes off down the highway with his little brother in tow. In a bus station, they run into a saucy redheaded number who’s just about Savage’s age – though, being a girl, she’s more mature. Savage’s father (Beau Bridges) and other brother (Christian Slater) give chase, as does a creepy private investigator.

The road business, and the discovery of the mute boy’s secret gift, give all of this the flavor of a pint-sized Rain Man. In Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman was found to be an autistic savant, able to apply his peculiar skills to the gambling halls of Las Vegas. In The Wizard, the young savant is a terror at video games, specifically Nintendo.

As fate would have it, there is a Nintendo grand championship about to get under way in Los Angeles, in a building at Universal Studios (Universal also happens to be the producer of The Wizard). So after a brief studio tour, the whole thing comes together at his big Nintendo-off, with results you really ought to be able to guess.

I’m guessing that simply staying at home and noodling at your own Nintendo would be more exciting than seeing The Wizard.

First published in The Herald, December 1989

It has a cult following, you say? Yes, I suppose it would. Director Todd Holland went from this to directing a couple of Twin Peaks episodes, so there. And if you’re wondering, I still haven’t played Nintendo, to my knowledge, but I am grateful to them for rescuing the Seattle Mariners.

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