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Appreciating The Wizard means getting past the blatant, eye-rolling commercialism. The movie takes place in a world where entertainment is provided solely by Nintendo, until the finale runs through Universal Studios – to reach a Nintendo tournament. Calling The Wizard a commercial isn’t criticism so much as truth; at times, it’s framed, shot, and designed like one.

Consider, however, The Wizard was made in the first place. So strong was Nintendo’s hold in pop culture, it led to a project like this. More than a toy or video game, Nintendo’s NES bonded generations – watch Beau Bridges sweeping his thumbs over a controller pretending to play in The Wizard, yet that sight isn’t artificial. How many adults did the same, attempting to connect with their kids? If not a way to soften distances, games became an escape for kids in broken homes. The Wizard captures both elements in a precisely tuned, cultural reflection.

The Wizard’s woozy sentimentality is lifted by nostalgia

Plus there’s Jimmy Woods (Luke Edwards), a child now seen as on the autism spectrum, trying to cope with a tragic loss. For such a flimsy concept and ludicrous cross-country road trip (kids thumbing their way from the midwest to California), The Wizard isn’t shy with its drama. The death of a younger sister is as harsh as Gremlins infamous Santa Claus story. Between the hokey (even infamous) in-movie ads for Nintendo’s Power Glove and Super Mario Bros. 3, there’s genuine heart, even authentically designed fiction about the shattering of American middle class families. Lucky then Nintendo was there to save us from ourselves.

Is it crass? A little, even a lot if being totally truthful. Here’s a movie hocking game consoles and software, and using childhood trauma to do so. However, The Lego Movie found the idea worthwhile enough to crib decades later as a father and son connect over a high dollar, corporately sponsored product. Not many seemed to mind. At least The Wizard didn’t brand itself in the title.

Thirty years old now, The Wizard’s woozy sentimentality is lifted by nostalgia. Not only when in arcades or as the camera swoons for various NES games, but as New Kids on the Block spreads (twice!) in diners, and Fred Savage (in his Wonder Years prime) taking the starring role. It’s colorful and pure, speaking to a country’s brand allegiances that makes this seem normal, but heartfelt even when sticking to the studio system’s dramatic movie playbook. Not rooting for Jimmy to outscore that smug Lucas (Jackey Vinson) during a preposterous tournament finale means not having a soul.

Video

Shout Factory gives The Wizard a grand treatment in this Blu-ray edition. It’s two discs, and on one, they debut a new 4K scan. Other than occasional dust on the print, clean-up gives the film new life. It’s pristine.

Bonus resolution helps, and with the pure, unfiltered transfer, benefits do show. Wide shots produce exquisite detail, and in close, there’s facial texture where facial detail never appeared before. It’s not the sharpest (going by eye alone, this lacks the firmness of many 4K scans), yet a notable boost over prior disc releases.

Color is where The Wizard shines. Saturation gives the film life. As the travels turn west, greenery and deserts look equally pure. By Video Armageddon, balloons bring hues in a variety of forms, giving The Wizard a look of something appealing to kids, and impressive in aesthetics.

Encoding handles a mild grain structure, and with one exception (at 1:11:16, where one shot looks pulled from a decrepit release print), every frame brings consistency.

Audio

Marginal stereo effects pop up in a few spots, but the DTS-HD mix isn’t prominent. It’s doing what it needs to, pleasing in fidelity, and offering occasional range in the soundtrack. The 8-bit music and sound effects stand out, with dialog holding firm against such background noise.

No static, hiss, or popping is noted.

Extras

Going all out, Shout brings in director Todd Holland for a routine, frequently too quiet commentary track, followed by 38-minutes worth of deleted scenes. These were never seen before on any previous disc release.

That’s disc one. On the second, things start with a 40-minute retrospective, detailing the production. It’s great. A somewhat stilted, awkward hour long convention panel brings Luke Edwards and others together to speak about their parts, as does an Alamo Drafthouse post-screening Q&A, the latter running 24-minutes (the more fluid and better panel of the two). Giving The Wizard credibility is a 12-minute look at Jimmy from a psychologist who breaks down how trauma and autism can affect children. For the finale, an actual Nintendo game counselor discusses his job and the movie’s authenticity (or, total lack thereof).

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Wizard
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  • Extras
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Movie

There’s no questioning The Wizard’s commercial lineage, but that means ignoring a dramatic, heartfelt story about emotional trauma at its center.

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