Monday, August 9, 2010

The Case for Remakes: The Wizard

In our remake happy culture, I don't tend to get upset about remakes as much as many others do. If a property I loved as a kid is being remade it doesn't mean that if it sucks it's going to have any bearing on how I feel about the original. However I do think that there are certain films that should, nay, deserve to be remade. Thus I present you with the first in a new series about just that.

Now Showing:

The Wizard (1989)

Fred Savage, Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Jenny Lewis, Luke Edwards, and in the most small and background of roles, Toby Maguire

The plot:
Two brothers, Jimmy (Luke Edwards) and Corey (Fred Savage) are facing being separated due to their parents divorce. Jimmy has become a quiet, mentally unbalanced child since his twin sister died. Wanting to stay together, the two run away. While on the road Corey discovers Jimmy has an amazing talent for video games. The two along with Haley (Jenny Lewis) a girl who they befriend, decide to head out to California to a video game championship. While on the road they have to dodge a private detective who has been hired by their mother to find them as well as dodging their father (Beau Bridges) and brother (Christian Slater) who are also on the hunt for them.

My Case:
I loved the film as a kid even though I knew at the time it wasn't a good movie. I recently watched it again after more than a decade and it's still not a good movie. It's cheesy, it's stupid and yet at the same time, in the most guilty pleasure of ways, it's thoroughly enjoyable.

The thing is, this film came on the scene when the world of video games was still young. It had yet to become the culture eclipsing movement it is today. Those who were gamers back then will also recognize a lot of stupidity on the portrayal of gaming itself. When I first saw it I thought the power glove was the coolest thing in the world. But anyone who really played with one will tell you that it was absolute crap. Completely worthless for most games. Though I will say that kind of innovative thinking is what led to the Wii, so for that I suppose it was a necessary evil.

And yeah it was essentially one giant commercial for NES. But that's alright with me, I was a Nintendo kid myself.

Video games now though really do carry a large culture with it. People take them very seriously and the market is there for a movie that focuses on playing in tournaments. So from that angle alone a remake would be able to create a more real environment for the characters to interact within. And let's face it, in our current online gaming universe, a kid having the nickname 'The Wizard' doesn't seem quite as unreal anymore. Pretty tame actually.

As for the rest of the film, there were some real issues that could have been dealt with in a realistic way that were just kind of silly. Jimmy's psychosis is played more as a MacGuffin when it could have carried some substance to it. A slightly more realistic approach could create the potential for a heck of a character.

Then there's the detective who is stupid in the classic kids movie kind of way. If you replaced him with someone that was actually intimidating and not just for slapstick, the presence would carry some weight and not just feel like extra minutes ticking down the film.

Not everything from the original should be completely retooled. The war between Beau Bridges and the detective is still great as a comical aside. Fact is it's the only real role I've ever cared for Beau Bridges in. As I've said before, Jeff is the money Bridges. But again, this would be better if the detective was somewhat realistic and cutthroat.

Ultimately it's a film that has a lot of good ideas that are just laying around going to waste in a mostly forgettable 80's film. This is exactly the kind of movie that should be getting a remake, something that wasn't that good to begin with but has the potential to be with a little maturity behind the helm.

And that's my case for remaking The Wizard.


  1. Oh my goodness, I forgot that this movie even existed. I loved this movie too. I liked anything Savage was involved with, but since I was a huge NES fan too, it was a no brainer. I am sure it really is an awful movie though. How about a remake of War Games?

  2. See for you it was the Wizard for me it was the Last Star Fighter. I'm a bit older than you. Still I applaud your savage choice.

  3. I'm with Copyboy, I've not seen The Wizard (or owned anything Nintendo) but was, and still am, a big fan of The Last Starfighter, which could also be remade though I'd rather see a sequel.

  4. Oh man, I love The Wizard in a completely non-ironic way. I think a remake might hurt, but only because I hold on to nostalgia a little harder than I probably should.

  5. You could do alot with this becombing the story of this loser kid enterting a tournatment against the best from all over the world including a young private fro the army who is an experct at flying predator drones in combate from the safety of his bunker.

  6. This would mean a new powerglove for the Wii. Maybe it work this time. It was a kids movie and it totally worked on that level. Every kid I know bugged his parents to either take them to the movie and/or rent it on VHS. I feel sorry for any of the parents that sat through it. My mom was smart enough to just drop me off.

  7. You make a good case for a remake, TS. I wouldn't see it, but it's a solid argument.

  8. Me and a buddy at work were just talking about the power glove and how it kinda sucked. I thought it was so cool though. Those were the good ol' days.

    I agree with your post. Seems like one that should be remade but I have never seen the film so it's hard to say.

  9. The Wizard??? As Charlie Kelly from Always Sunny would say, now you're talking my language. I loved The Wizard when I was a kid, and still like it now, and I've actually written two entries about it: (p1) (p2)

    I think any sort of remake involving video games of today would be nearly impossible - You should just go for a sort of cheesy retro feel. i.e. Have the movie take place in 1992 with a Street Fighter 2 tournament, or something.

    Otherwise, you'd have to make a game specifically for the movie, or use it to hype a game coming out. You could do this when The Wizard initially came out because, except for Nintendo Power, it's not like anyone was reporting about video games. With IGN, GamePro, Penny Arcade and everything else out there, anything cool would be old news by the time the movie came out. (You could eschew this by aiming the movie at kids, but I'd honestly hate that.)

  10. I also forgot this movie existed. And for good reason...
    Why open up new wounds?
    Was there ever an actor who was so badly mis-named?
    And whatever happened to Winnie Cooper?

  11. @ Pat - Winnie Cooper is now super hot and writes math books that are meant to keep young girls interested in science and technology. She's pretty much the perfect human being:

  12. Steve, They do still run high money championships. Street Fighter (one of the many updated versions) is big one. They tend to play games both new and old. But I'm not even saying you'd focus so much on the game itself as on the culture. Mario 3 was only a couple minutes in the whole film.

  13. I've never even HEARD of this movie. Gah - now I feel

  14. Awesome review - it's surprising and weird, now that I think about it, how often this movie is mentioned by my buddies and I at work.

    Also - heck, you could do a reality show on this with how serious video games are to some people (I'm thinking Starcraft + South Korea).

    Oh and the Last Starfighter was also definitely fantastic and should be re-made. In real life. Starring me. (As the dude who drives the truck.)

  15. Gaming is so varied and expansive now I just dont see how they could remake this one, it isnt like the good old days where a simple secret like the whistle could change the entire outcome of a tournament. I think this one might have to remain a delicious piece of 80s nostalgia =D

    Dude how awesome was it to see Mario 3 for the first time on there???? I shit my 7yr old pants

  16. When you consider that a few minutes of games like Bioshock Infinite and Zelda are still previewed years before their actual release, you could totally do this with a film. I imagine what they did with The Wizard was just make the movie and then composite or edit in Mario 3 at the end. Which was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen in a movie as an 8-year-old at that time, btw.

    1. Also, keep in mind that Nintendo had already released Mario 3 in Japan a year before The Wizard came out in theaters. So the game was essentially already done. We just couldn't play it in America yet.


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