One from the Vault: ‘The Wizard’

Now here’s a crazy one. This week, I combine my love of videogames with the seemingly unending supply of ’80s movies that are unavailable on Blu-ray to bring you this peek at Netflix’s high definition stream of ‘The Wizard’. You know you want to get your power glove action on.

‘The Wizard’ is a story about a divided family whose youngest son lives with the mother and her new husband. The boy, Jimmy, experienced a traumatic event and is now borderline catatonic. He shows signs of autism, mumbles about California, and randomly disappears from their home. The father (Beau Bridges) and his other two sons (Christian Slater and Fred Savage) battle to keep the new husband from committing Jimmy, but ultimately lose. Corey (Savage) decides that it would be a good idea to break Jimmy out of the crazy house and take him to California. Along the way, he discovers that Jimmy is a real “wizard” at playing videogames, and determines that he should go to the videogame championships in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the two families try to find the runaway boys in an almost over-the-top farcical and slapstick-y manner.

The film is also a humongous Nintendo product placement spot featuring tons of fun old-school games like ‘Contra’, ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and ‘Double Dragon’. Also, everyone seems to have a Nintendo console in his or her backpack or car. And of course the Power Glove is prominently featured. Ha! Seeing the actor slip that thing on like he just strapped on the gauntlet of invincibility kills me every time.

‘The Wizard’ might even be considered a formulaic sports film, since it tells the story of a seemingly ordinary boy overcoming great obstacles to do extraordinary things. There’s even a training montage where Jimmy plays all manner of videogames while Corey calls the Nintendo help line to get tips on how to beat games. That’s right, a Nintendo help line. Apparently, in the late ’80s, you could just call up Nintendo and some nice fellow in a cube filled with three-ring binders containing all the secrets to all of the games, would be happy to help you make your way to the videogame championships.

In the end, ‘The Wizard’ is a silly children’s adventure story. Despite the reckless way it presents the theme of “families should stick together,” it’s a perfectly enjoyable trip down memory lane.

So, how does it look streaming in HD from Netflix? I’m very surprised to report that this is one of the best-looking movies I’ve streamed. Its consistency makes this one stand out. The image doesn’t vary from one scene to the next like many of the other flicks I’ve watched lately. It’s crisp and nearly completely devoid of noise, with well-saturated colors. Flesh tones are spot on. There’s an excellent level of detail in almost every scene, especially in reflective surfaces (like shiny cars). This movie just pops. Now, it isn’t Blu-ray quality, but I’m positive this film hasn’t looked this good since it was in theaters.

Catalog titles are still playing catch-up on Blu-ray, and DVDs drop out of circulation all the time. Fortunately, Netflix tries to fill the void. “One from the Vault” is a recurring feature that explores the wide selection of movies that the Netflix Instant Streaming service has to offer that are out of print, unavailable, or just hard to find in other formats.


  1. TJ Kats

    The part where Beau Bridges stays up all night playing Ninja Turtles and Christian Slater has to pull him away from the game is classic.

  2. “I love the Power glove, it’s so bad.”

    This would be a day one blu ray buy for me. I remember the unveiling of Mario 3 in this when I was a kid, man that worked on me. Still does actually, every time I watch this I get giddy and nostalgic and inevitably dig out some old NES games.

  3. Brian Haney

    +1 for SMB 3, worked like a charm to have my parents buy it for me as a kid hahaha. I love this movies, kinda a guilty pleasure to watch it, yet kinda hits home. Oh ya still looking for a power glove!!

  4. I almost forgot to mention that the Nintendo Power help line was a very real thing. It was a 900 number that cost something like $.50 a minute. There were people whose job it was to play through every Nintendo game and give you tips when you got stuck on a level or couldn’t find a particular power-up.

    Before the internet, it was either this or buy expensive guide books with walk-throughs of the hardest games. I called them more than a few times when I got frustrated with games like Zelda or Final Fantasy. My mother wouldn’t let me call from the house and rack up our phone bill, so I had to go to a payphone at the grocery store a few blocks away, and pay for the service in quarters. 🙂

    • My mom luckily just bought me a subscription to Nintendo Power. About once a year they would send out a free strategy guide, and every issue usually featured a half-dozen games with walk-throughs of certain levels, and cheat codes in the back. I remember playing some games with 3 or 4 issues of Nintendo Power spread out over the floor. This was probably better than the help line, because I’m a visual person.

      Yeah, i haven’t seen this movie since it came out, but I do think the main reason I went and saw it was for the footage of SMB3. Talk about a great product movie!

    • Troy Walker

      You dialed a 900 number?! The Nintendo Hotline I called ALL THE TIME, was 1-206-885-7529. It was long distance for me(or I should say my Mom who paid the phone bill at that time), but not some stupid 900 crap.

      Such wonderful memories. To be so fond of them; I must have had a great childhood. Thank you for that Nintendo. I wish you were still great today.

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