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The Wizard – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Kids movies were of a whole different world back in the 1980s and 1990s. There is nothing quite like them. And when they are bad, they are baaaad or quite fun for the shortcomings. When they are on, the tears be flowing or a lifelong fandom be growing. The Wizard is a bit of a crazy concoction when you hear about it, that someone how finished itself a pretty solid story narratively. The whole purpose of this thing was to sell Nintendo and Nintendo products be “Kids like it, its cool.” We’ll get into it a little more in the review, but it has had a legacy of dedicated fandom and nostalgic memories for it, mainly because we really didn’t get much in the way of stuff like this that seemed to know exactly what we were into. Incredibly, Shout! Factory is giving the film the handsome 4K restorative treatment along with some great new bonus features to celebrate the film. Personally, I think the new cover art is right on the money and one of their most brilliant ones of all time. You’ll be able to marvel at said art in person when it arrives on Blu-ray March 24th.

Film

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 (recording artist and actress Jenny Lewis), 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!

A complete product placement movie like The Wizard should be a complete ball of trash and an insult to moviegoers and said product that is being placement…ed(?).  Maybe in 1989, adults could see right through it all. As a 7 year old, it was (at worst) just another movie, it had kids outsmarting adults. Fred Savage and Christian Slater were recognizable stars to me. And it had one of my great loves of the time…NINTENDO! This was the first Nintendo movie and nobody was stopping me from seeing it. I remember my uncle taking me to see it and the tickets coming with a little Nintendo power hints guide for games (Which, said hints were all already known and super common things if you an addict). I was also a Nintendo Power subscriber and this movie was covered quite a bit and so I had a bit of a hype building for it.

Time has actually been rather kind for The Wizard. After 31 years the movie can now simply rest as a nostalgic throwback to many folks of my age range or that grew up with it on VHS. However, looking back, the film may feature a lot of whacky kid exploits with the background of Nintendo looming all over the place, but its heart is absolutely in the right place. All of the family construction and relationship stuff has plenty of care and realistic drama and characterizations. The film also cares and takes good caution and appropriate play in the many facets of childhood trauma over loss of a loved one and parental separation. While the mother and step-dad portion of it may not get the shiniest spotlight, it absolutely hits perfectly with Jimmy, Corey, Nick and Sam Woods.

Credit for how well the movie works in its legitimate aspects has to be given to director Todd Holland. Watching the movie, you can just gather that he’s a director that works very well with kids and he manages to get good performances out of all of him. He claims he wasn’t into Nintendo and that actually feels a benefit to something like this as he can focus on character and narrative while having an adviser as to how the video game portion will collaborate into the movie. No different than an action movie having a second unit director (But not to that extreme) I suppose. The movie has its share of serious drama, but Holland never lets you forget, that like Nintendo, you’re here to have plenty of fun, too.

This kids adventure film also has a nice pair of completely memorable villains. Lucas might be the cream of the crop. What a smug little punk and Jackey Vinson plays him perfectly. Almost a poor man’s Johnathan Brandis, this guy comes complete with the Power Glove like a complete a-hole. He even says “I love the Power Glove. Its so bad.” And if you aren’t gut busting laughing after that, I’m not sure if you have a sole. The other villain is a private investigator/bounty hunter that doesn’t fit the bill and slowly has an arc of complete insanity completed by movie’s end. Watching, one can’t help but have your draw dropped at the amount of destruction and child abuse this man happens to leave in his wake.

When I saw The Wizard has aged well, its in the fact that I think its more entertaining now than its ever been. At the core, it has a good kids dramatic story. On the surface it is a goofy dated product placement with over the top and wild antics that play for hilarity rather than the adventurous intensity it may have been then. Back when it was made, kids movies were made for…KIDS. They didn’t pander to the adult that had to chaperone taking the children to the movie they wanted to see. The films played for kids with kids logic and kids fantasy. Adults and the world would play to how a child would view them (Or how some Hollywood exec/writer would think a child of the 1980s would see them). Growing up, its funny to see how funny it was. And every bit of this movie will hit your nostalgia spot or your funny bone. You can say The Wizard isn’t a good movie, but you can’t say its not a highly entertaining movie.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Wizard features an brand new 4K transfer from Shout! Factory in its second release to Blu-ray. I’m not familiar with the first release (Was honestly waiting on the $19.99 price to drop on the bare bones Universal release. Looks like my patience paid off in the end). This features a lush amount of detail and full feeling color to go with good black levels and depth. Sharpness is quite crisp and the details are rampant. I must mention, that a lot of the deleted scenes look absolutely stunning as well in their overall transfer clarity and cleanliness.

Depth: Depth of field features pretty strongly with good pushback and background/foreground relations. Characters move freely through the frame with a good idea of space between them and objects/backgrounds. Movements are smooth, natural and cinematic in nature with no issues regarding blurring or jitter.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and keep to a more refined natural presence (While still having a bit of a lighter scope compared to the matte bars). Details retain plenty good and the shadowing and night sequences hold well. No crushing was witnessed during the watch for this review.

Color Reproduction:  There is a lot of cross country travel through deserts and bland landscapes in the film, so it has some western/natural tones to it for a majority. However, articles of clothing do pop and the real treat of the matter comes in the way of Las Vegas and the tournament happenings at Universal Studios.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. You can make out really impressive degrees of detail on facial features and textures from almost any distance. Freckles, wrinkles, stubble, dirt, bruises all come through quite clear in this newly transferred image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  The Wizard features a pretty nice 2.0 track to accompany the wonderful image that has been restored for the film. This little, minimal speakers track actually manages to pack a pretty good enough punch with some surprisingly decent low frequency emission. Its a pretty balanced track with the vocals, effects and score working in good harmony with one another. Overall, the track is able to be energetic and blast the film across to the room as best as you could hope this limited track could do.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, with a pretty good placement of volume in the overall mix for the film.

Extras

The Wizard – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Disc set that comes with reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Todd Holland

Deleted Scenes (HD, 37:54) – HOLY CRAP! There were almost 40 minutes of deleted scenes from this movie?!?!? Over half of them come from the first act alone. There is a lot more set up and background for the family. Christian Slater has more to do.

Trailer (SD, 2:02)

Disc 2

“The Road to Cali-forn-ia” – A Look Back At The Wizard (HD, 40:45) – An impressive, deep look at the making of the film that features the talking head of the writer David Chisholm, director Todd Holland, actor Luke Edwards (Jimmy), producer Ken Toplosky, Fred Savage (Although is contribution is audio only). Its a wonderfully honest and endearing look back at pretty much every little aspect of the film and even features some heartfelt confessionals from fans (Including @horrormoviebbq). Its nice to see an actual edited feature “Making of” with talking heads on one of these again as opposed to just a roster of long interviews (Don’t get me wrong, I DO love those, but moreso in addition).

“How Can I Help You? Confessions of a Game Play Counselor” (HD, 5:52) – A former Nintendo “Game Play Counselor” talks about his experience, training and what it was like working in the call center. He says that 95% of the time he was playing games while he was working and compares the depiction of his position in the movie to the real life job (Not too far off). The guy also has watched the movie in full for the first time and his biggest nit pick of the movie was the arcade cabinets that weren’t really around but in abundance featuring Nintendo exclusive games.

A Clinical Analysis of The Wizard (HD, 12:48) – Clinical Psychologist Andrea Letamendi, writer David Chisholm and actor Luke Edwards (Jimmy) give us a deep dive on the character of Jimmy in the film. All separate interviews, they take on the film scene by scene and single out certain exchanges and events and dissect it from a clinical perspective, the writer’s influence on it and the actor’s motivation in playing the scene.

Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019 (HD, 57:10) – A full panel from the convention featuring writer David Chisholm, actor Luke Edwards and producer Ken Toplosky.

Post Screening Q&A (HD, 24:09) – Same crew of guys from the panel, now at a Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse following a screening from the Let’s Play Gaming Expo 2019.

Photo Gallery (HD, 10:37)

Summary

Its really, really hard not to be drawn in by The Wizard‘s goofy charm and Nintendo nostalgia in this wild kids adventure from 1989.  Shout! Factory has put together the ultimate release for the film, that I can’t see any fan coming away from disappointed. The 4K transfer on it is absolutely marvelous. Bonus features here leave almost no stone unturned (Jenny Lewis or Christian Slater would have been nice additions, though I’m sure they reached out). Heck, the new cover art for this is OUTSTANDING! Its the most perfect compliment for the movie and completely fitting for it. It might be my favorite thing about the release, honestly. If you dig The Wizard, if you enjoy old 1980s children’s adventure movies, Shout! Factory has put together a nice complete release for it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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