I recently watched the The Wizard again for the first time in over a decade. Coming out of it as an adult, I feel like a have a stronger appreciation for the movie. This movie is by no means good, and it suffers from some of the most blatant product placement I‘ve seen. On the flip side, this film is absolutely amazing in that it has captured an era so perfectly. For a child who grew up in the NES era of gaming, this isn’t a commercial to sell video games. The creators weren’t selling Simon’s Quest and Ninja Gaiden to us because we already knew those games inside and out. This was simply something we could relate to as children. As corny as it is to see Fred Savage compare Jenny Lewis’ life to The Adventure of Link, we understood what he was trying to say, even if he did describe The Legend of Zelda. Watching the movie again is like taking a look back on a childhood that we once had. The discussions of video games on the play ground, talk in the lunch room, and salivating over the pages of Nintendo Power magazine. A life that was heavily influenced by the culture that Nintendo helped create. In this way, the movie succeeds where it didn’t intend to, but that’s part of the charm. This movie was created for generation NES, and no one else. Everyone who watches this movie today will see it for the crap that it is, but the rest of us will see yesterday.
Considering the subject matter, The Wizard actually had a decent cast. Fred Savage and Christian Slater? Come on, this movie was created when they were at their prime, how can we not want to know where these guys are now? Oh you don’t care? That’s okay, I’ll tell you anyway. Let us take a look at not just the actors all these years later, but also the games that defined the movie. So flip up your collar and get ready to learn a few things you didn‘t want to. It’s going to be rad.
Luke Edwards – Jimmy Woods / The Wizard
California. One of the only words that Edwards needed to mutter in The Wizard, and he couldn’t even deliver it properly. Maybe it was better that little Jimmy Woods didn’t have much to say during the film. Okay, so Edwards wasn’t the greatest child actor, where does this leave him these days? Edwards has appeared in a variety of roles in movies and shows that I actually never really heard of. His highest profile movie is Jeepers Creepers 2, but I’ve never seen it, so who knows if he is even a main character. It doesn’t matter what he’s in, he’ll always be that kid that wanted to see the dinosaur’s from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure to me.
Fred Savage – Corey Woods
Savage played the lead role and was the middle brother of the Woods family. If not for Corey Woods, Jimmy would never have embarked on his journey to Video Armageddon. Savage was one of the few kid actors that was actually good, so it’s sad to see his career fade after The Wonder Years. These days, Savage mainly directs children’s shows. In particular, he’s responsible for episodes of Zoey 101, That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana, and Drake and Josh. He has also directed a handful of episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his feature film directorial debut was the box office bomb Daddy Day Camp. He might not be an A-list actor, but Savage has been keeping himself busy over the years. Good for him.
Jenny Lewis – Haley Brookes
Lewis is the spunky red headed girl who managed to worm her way into Jimmy and Corey’s life, and was also responsible for pointing out Corey’s natural gaming talent. The character Haley was what every 11 year old boy was looking for in a girl, and that’s the fact that she apparently loved video games. The term girl gamer didn’t exactly exist then, so this made up character is the first mainstream one ever. Lewis actually had a short lived career, but mostly because she chose things to be that way. After acting for several years, she decided to take a break and form the band Rilo Kiley with a few of her friends. Rilo Kiley’s latest album, Under the Black Light, was 8th in Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Albums of 2007.
Christian Slater – Nick Woods
Nick Woods is the eldest Woods brother, and helps his father in trying to track down Jimmy and Corey throughout the movie. Nick Woods is mainly remembered for having the magical ability to turn off the NES by unplugging the controller. Slater went from staring in a movie about video games, to staring in a movie based on a video game. That movie is none other than the terrible Alone in the Dark which has a 1% on RottenTomatoes.com. For some reason when I was a kid, I always got Slater confused with Kevin Bacon, which is why I find his role in the direct to DVD sequel, Hallow Man II, even more hilarious. But hey, I’m sure Slater is more than comfortable and banging hot girls on a regular basis.
Beau Bridges – Sam Woods
Sam is the father of our hero The Wizard. During the movie Sam is not only trying to find his son, but also piece his family back together. Beau is actually the older brother of Jeff Bridges, and since The Wizard he has only seen a string of minor roles. However, he has found success in the hit sci-fi series Stargate-SG1 as General Landry, as well as the TV comedy My Name Is Earl.
Jackey Vinson – Lucas
“I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad.” When Jackey Vinson shot that scene, there was no way he could have predicted that the internet was going to make him into a star nearly 20 years later. Lucas is Jimmy’s rival gamer in the movie. We all know that the Power Glove is actually a big giant piece of shit, which is what makes this scene all the better. Lucas is basically saying to Jimmy “Listen kid, if I can beat Rad Racer with this piece of shit on my hand, then I’m going to mop the god damned floor with you when I’m using a standard controller.” He handicapped himself in an effort to show off just how awesome he is. No wonder Jimmy bitched out and ran out of the house. Of course, Lucas loses against The Wizard in the end. As for Jackey Vinson? No one really knows. He was only in a handful of episodes of some TV series and one other movie back in ’92. Aside from that, you can’t even find a Wikipedia page on the guy. Maybe he really did see into the future, saw what was coming and ducked out of the publics’ eye. Jackey Vinson, where are you?
Well we now know where Jackey Vinson is, and boy it isn’t pretty. Reader “King1501″ provided us with a link as to what he’s been doing. Say it aint so Jackey. He should have took Fred Savage’s advice and just kept his Power Gloves to himself.
Lee Arenberg – The “NINJA GAI-DAN! HAI!” Guy
My favorite part of The Wizard is when the kids finally make it to Video Armaggedon and sign up for the tournament. There they meet Lee Arenberg, who shouts and screams his three lines with more enthusiasm than anyone in the movie. It was hilarious then, and it’s hilarious now. What you don’t know about Lee Arenberg is that he’s a secret great bit actor, and has shown up in more movies and television shows than anyone on this list. He has been in episodes of Star Trek, Friends, Walker Texas Ranger, and Scrubs. Most people would probably know him as Pintel from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Tobey Maguire – Lucas’ henchman
Who would have guessed that the person who made it big from The Wizard was the little kid that was cast as Lucas’ thug friend? No one. Yup, our friendly neighborhood spider had an uncredited role in The Wizard. It’s a cool easter egg that fits in with the movie quite well.
The Games of The Wizard
Contrary to the 97 games that this movie claims to have existed at the time, the NES actually had something closer to 1 bazillion games, and the producers made sure to pick the games they knew kids loved at the time. I imagine that back in that time it was a little harder to pick the most popular games, though I’m sure Nintendo probably helped point them in the right direction. Many games were mentioned during the movie, but few actually had long moments of screen time. So, which series of games mentioned in this movie stood the test of time?
Strangely enough, the first game showcased in The Wizard is the original Double Dragon. Double Dragon is one of those series that didn‘t quite graduate from the 8-bit era. The height of Double Dragon was with it’s NES sequal, Double Dragon II: The Revenge, though the SNES’ Super Double Dragon was a decent game as well. Double Dragon became popular enough to get its own feature film and Saturday morning cartoon series, but it’s popularity died not long after. The game series basically ended in the mid 90s, though there were some spin off fighting games on the Neo Geo. In 2003 the original Double Dragon was recreated for the Gameboy Advance, but no new titles were developed for the platform. In May of ’07, a port of the arcade original was released for Xbox Live. This series is a shell of what it used to be, and these new releases are likely only purchased by people who have loving memories of the early games.
This game was done by Square before they created (and milked to death) the Final Fantasy series. It’s really interesting to see people like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu have their names attached to a title like this. As for the Rad Racer series, Square did an exclusive sequel for North America but sadly the series has passed on with the 8-bit era of video games.
This game is actually featured twice in the movie. We get a glimpse of Jimmy playing it earlier in the film, and again at the competition. Ninja Gaiden went on to become a successful trilogy on the NES, and even had a Gameboy iteration. Several ports of Ninja Gaiden were available on a variety of consoles, but none of them had the success of the NES titles. For nearly 10 years the Ninja Gaiden games remained dormant, until 2004 when Tecmo revived the series for Xbox. The new game did extremely well both commercially and critically, and new titles for the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS are right around the corner.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This game was likely spotlighted because not only was the NES the talk of the town in ’89, but so was TMNT. As we know TMNT has never really gone away, though the franchise never quite hit the stride it once had. TMNT on the NES isn’t really a good game, but the fact of the matter is that everyone was playing it. Because the game was so damn hard, people were no doubt trying to give tips to each other on how to get through the thing. It was only fitting to see it in The Wizard. For years Konami made TMNT titles that appeared on nearly every console, skipping only the 32-bit generation. Last year with the release of the TMNT movie, Ubisoft released new titles across all major platforms, as well as the arcade original for XBox 360, and this very game on the Wii Virtual console.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
For whatever reason, this movie never mentions the original Zelda game. The Zelda series has held in tight, and the overall quality of the entire series has never truly faltered. Zelda II in particular is somewhat of the black sheep of the family, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from packaging it in the Zelda Collector’s Edition for Gamecube, as a Gameboy Advance game, and as a Wii Virtual Console title for download. Not only has the Zelda series survived the times, but so has this game in particular.
Super Mario Brothers 3
Perhaps the reason every child begged their parents to see this movie. The Wizard promised us the first real look at Super Mario Brothers 3, and it delivered. Though it likely would have become a hit regardless, Super Mario Brothers 3 not only went on to become the best selling NES game, but the best selling game of all time. Super Mario Brothers 3 has since been rereleased through Super Mario All Stars on the SNES, ported to the Gameboy Advance, and available for download on the Nintendo Wii. The Mario brand is still as strong today as it was in ’89 both commercially and critically. The recently released Super Mario Galaxy has once again solidified Mario’s place in gaming, and New Super Mario Brothers for Nintendo DS is the second highest selling Mario title to date, proving that the world still loves Mario the best when he’s running from left to right.
The only game mentioned in The Wizard that didn’t deserve a mention is Dr. Chaos. Oddly enough, even though Dr. Chaos was released in ’88, ads for the game weren’t created until ’90. Considering the fact The Wizard came out at the end of ’89, these ads were likely the result of Haley’s shout out of the game towards the end of the movie. Not sure if it did the title much good because Dr. Chaos began and ended with this game.
Other popular titles and series mentioned in The Wizard include Metroid, R.C. Pro-Am, Simon’s Quest, Mega Man 2, Contra, Rampage, and Super Mario Brothers 2. Aside from the Rare developed R.C. Pro-Am, all of those series are still relevant to this day.
The Power Glove
The device that couldn’t deserves a nod as well. Always at the butt of an internet joke, the Power Glove is remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s worth mentioning though that Nintendo never gave up on the idea of motion controls, and we can all see a bit of the Power Glove in the Wii controller.
For anyone who grew up during the height of the NES, it’s worth watching The Wizard for reliving the moment. For everyone else? It’s a terrible movie that serves as a good reference to what was popular in ’89.