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The Wizard: Collector's Edition (1989) - Blu-ray Review

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The Wizard (1989)

“Is Los Angeles specific enough?”

There’s no stopping Jimmy Woods (Luke Evans).  The kid, carrying his yellow lunch box, is on a mission.  He’s going to California on foot and as the Bodeans’ “You Don’t Get Much” is played, we see him standing tall against an intense sun.  Whatever his reason to be walking on the side of the road, we fully support him. Maybe it is that forlorn expression on his face. Maybe it is how he looks in his oversized hat.  But, whatever it is, in those opening few moments, the deal is sealed and Jimmy Woods, aka The Wizard, is us all.

"From climbing out of the King Kong ride to the Rad Racer playing, it’s all window-dressing (and pretty cool at that) for a story about a kid suffering from PTSD"


If memory serves me correctly, most critics (and adults) HATED The Wizard.  They called it a shameless wannabe rip of The Karate Kid by way of Nintendo and the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.  Whatever. The point is that they didn’t get it, refused to swallow its sweetness, and patted themselves on the back while the story of Jimmy Woods and the traumatic loss of his sister played out on the screen.

Their loss.  But it is we, Generation X, that get the last laugh on this cult classic.  Shout Select, bringing The Wizard to their camp of forgotten and unfortunately dismissed titles, gets it, too.  The Wizard might not be for those who never played Nintendo, but that doesn’t mean that this tale about an emotionally shattered kid who winds up in a gaming competition at Universal Studios Hollywood can’t reach across the video game console aisle and offer a lending hand to those who also get this film’s sweet message about faith in the fractures.

The Wizard, starring Fred Savage (from The Wonder Years), Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater, and Beau Bridges, is about one now-defunct family.  The parents split-up after their daughter’s death and, with no guidance (only threats), there’s no one but Corey (Savage) to help Jimmy process his grief.  And all he wants to do is to go to California. So, with his mother threatening to send him to a mental institute and his father struggling to even make a casserole, Corey and Jimmy hit the road. {googleads}

It might be a bit misguided of Corey, but his heart is in the right place.  His brother is not crazy. He’s still grieving over the loss of his sister and his family.  But the adults don’t see that, so it is high time they get away from adults and make a run for it to California.

And it is on the road that they meet Haley.  She’s a firecracker of a girl. She might be on her way to Reno, but even she can spot that Jimmy has a gift for playing games.  He’s not mental. He’s a pro at Double Dragon and so, without a clue to get there, they make a plan to get Jimmy to Video Armageddon in Los Angeles where he could win $50000 if he wins the championship title, playing against Lucas Barton and his Power Glove and one other player, and prove that the poor kid deserves to be home with his family and not in the nut house.The Wizard (1989)

So, on one hand, you have a kid’s road trip at the heart of The Wizard as they travel from Utah to California and on the other, with Slater as the older brother and Bridges as their father, you have a chase sequence as the duo race against time and the child “bounty hunter” hired by Jimmy’s mother to bring Jimmy back home.  These road and motel sequences, occurring in small towns across Utah and California, involve destroying cars and getting into fights as they keep (literally) running into each other.  They are sometimes over-the-top, but are significant enough to bring the older men in the family closer together and the chemistry is strong between the two actors, too.  This solidifies at the end of the movie, too, where I dare you NOT to get a lump in the throat as Bridges reacts to his son's real reason for wanting to go to California.  Damn.  That scene at the Cabazon Dinosaurs still gets me.  And, supposedly, Jimmy's yellow lunch box is STILL there, too.

The Wizard was made quickly.  It shows. Hell, a strike was on the way and if the producers could secure Savage, they were off and running.  The Wizard was also made to launch Super Mario Bros 3. At least, that is a big part of the movie because that’s the NEW game they play at the contest, but - as someone who has seen this movie many, many, many times - all that stuff is circumstantial to the heart of this narrative.  

From climbing out of the King Kong ride to the Rad Racer playing, it’s all window-dressing (and pretty cool at that) for a story about a kid suffering from PTSD.  I don’t believe there were a lot of shows or films willing to talk about childhood PTSD at the time of its release. I could be mistaken here. But, for that reason, and all the “he touched my breast” quotable lines that come out of this movie, The Wizard has always stuck with me.

It was more than a game.  It was a chance of a lifetime.  The Wizard is now on blu-ray thanks to Shout Select.

4/5 stars

The Wizard (1989)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Collector's Edition

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- March 24, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 blu-ray discs)
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Haunted by a family tragedy, and desperate to get to California for some unknown reason, young Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards, Newsies) flees with his conniving brother, Corey (Fred Savage, The Wonder Years). Along the way, they encounter Haley (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley), a street-smart teen on her way to Reno. Together, they make their way to California, pursued by a sinister bounty hunter, as well as the boys' father (Beau Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) and brother (Christian Slater, Kuffs). Meanwhile, their ticket to California just might be found in Jimmy's hidden talent: video games!

Video:

The Wizard’s 1080 transfer is presented with a new (and stunning) 4K transfer!  The work here results in an ageless film of pristine beauty thanks to this transfer.  The freewheeling road antics of this family doesn’t show much aging. The film is dominated with reds and greens that absolutely burst with color.  The clothes are detailed and the simple backgrounds burst with new details and a nice level of clarity. The desert town locations are striking and the big LA payoff looks lovely, too.  Black levels are solid and skin tones are natural. Shadows are defined and the film has a new depth previously unseen.

Audio:

Turn this up.  Blast Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” with the thumping DTS-HD MA soundtrack that is included here.  The 16-bit sounds of game playing are clear and the dialogue is never lost or hard to hear.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • See below

Special Features:

With a bunch of new supplemental items concerning the film and video games, this is a win-win for fans.  The retrospective is the best in the bunch, outside of the 4K transfer and the insightful commentary from the film's director.

DISC ONE:

  • NEW 4K Transfer
  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director Todd Holland
  • NEW Never-Before-Released Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers

DISC TWO:

  • NEW “The Road to Cali-forn-ia” – A Look Back At The Wizard Including Brand-New Interviews With Todd Holland, Stars Fred Savage And Luke Edwards, Writer/Producer David Chisholm; Producer Ken Topolsky; And More!
  • NEW “How Can I Help You? Confessions of a Game Play Counselor”
  • NEW “A Clinical Analysis of The Wizard”
  • Post Screening Q&A From Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019 With Luke Edwards, David Chisholm, And Ken Topolsky
  • Photo Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4.5/5 stars

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The Wizard

MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
110 mins
Director
: Todd Holland
Writer:
David Chisholm
Cast:
Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis
Genre
: Comedy | Adventure
Tagline:
It's more than a game... It's the chance of a lifetime.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Hey, it's the wizard! I hope you don't get nervous like last time. We wouldn't want you to..."wiz" on someone!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site: https://www.thehustle.movie/
Release Date:
December 15, 1989
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 24, 2020.
Synopsis:

Haunted by a family tragedy, and desperate to get to California for some unknown reason, young Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards, Newsies) flees with his conniving brother, Corey (Fred Savage, The Wonder Years). Along the way, they encounter Haley (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley), a street-smart teen on her way to Reno. Together, they make their way to California, pursued by a sinister bounty hunter, as well as the boys' father (Beau Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) and brother (Christian Slater, Kuffs). Meanwhile, their ticket to California just might be found in Jimmy's hidden talent: video games!

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The Wizard

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