Throwback Friday: The Wizard


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I was around eight years old, the NES was was booming and Mario was taking the world by storm. Everyone and their mother had played Mario Bros and it’s additional game; Duck Hunt. It was there to be capitalised upon and Universal Pictures stepped in and made The Wizard. A story about a mentally challenged child, Jimmy, who developed his disorder after his twin sister drowned in a river. The movie follows a convoluted story that sees Jimmy wanting to run away to California as his family is broken after the tragedy.

TheWizardDVD

As you can see by the above movie poster, The Wizard featured the “poster child” of the 80’s, Fred Savage. A child who was in damn near everything throughout my younger days, The wonder years being the main culprit of forcing Savage down our throats. Savage plays one of Jimmy’s half brothers and supports him in his journey to California.

For those who haven’t seen The Wizard, you’re probably thinking why am I reading this, what the hell has it got to do with gaming?!? But Jimmy is a “wizard” at videogames. This talent is discovered by another tearaway child, Haley, she informs them of a videogame tournament in LA with a cash prize of $50,000. She aids the brothers in their journey to LA while Jimmy’s stepfather decides to hire a runaway child hunter to find the boys. (I told you it was convoluted, but it doesn’t end there) Jimmy’s REAL dad, decides to set out and find Jimmy with Jimmy’s OTHER half brother, Nick. The dad and other brother are played by Beau Bridges and Christian Slater respectively.

Anyway, that’s enough about the plot, it goes to say the boys….and girl make it to LA and Jimmy gets to play the tournament with the support of his family. The reason I bring up this movie is because this was my first interaction with gaming in mainstream media. Who cares if it had a rubbish story and was panned by critics, The Wizard showed children and teens how much fun they could have with games.

The main criticism of The Wizard came from Roger Ebert, who said it was tacky and felt like a commercial for Nintendo products. His reasons for this were justified though, as The Wizard is cheesy 80’s toss that was full of product placement. From the Nintendo power glove and games to the heavy promotion of Universal Studios (where the tournament is held) and who can forget the big final in the tournie that featured the US première of Mario 3. (which was the one scene that I loved, Jimmy who is losing the tournament comes from behind with the advice of Savage who tells him to grab the warp whistle, strange as it was only out in Japan at the time, Savage must read import magazines so that he could give this spoiler!)

For a young doe eyed child like myself, sitting cross legged on the floor in my living room and watching The Wizard on VHS, seeing all of these games and the glamour that accompanied them, this was my hobby. This movie, as tacky as it is The Wizard made me see how great games were and from this moment I ploughed more time into my Master System (Maybe I was a Wizard too?) I truly think that Fred Savage and his antics made me the gamer I am today.

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    • ryokea
    • July 10th, 2009

    The thing that makes me the Gamer I am today is the fact that the only thing constant in my life that I could always count on as a source of comfort was and still is video games. I have the utmost respect for the teams of people that give us their creations and I never intend to aband gaming, even in my older years.

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