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Obnoxious Product Placement: The Wizard, a Definite Nintendon't

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Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Crap.

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By 1989, video games were getting, at best, a mixed reception on the silver screen. WarGames was a massive hit, Tron and The Last Starfighter enjoyed modest success, but who among us fondly remembers Cloak & Dagger (hell, who among us remembers it at all)? Then Nintendo was afforded a unique opportunity to step up and revolutionize the video-game movie, just as it had revolutionized the home-console market.


What did audiences get instead? The Wizard - a combination of Rain Man and Tommy, and the most shameless attempt at youth marketing since George Lucas trotted out the Ewoks.

Luke Edwards stars as Jimmy Woods, an autistic boy whose grief over the death of his sister is surpassed only by his mad skills as a gamer. Half-brother Corey (Fred Savage, of Wonder Years fame) "rescues" him from a special-care facility so he can drag him across the country to compete in a video-game competition. (Incidentally, Jimmy's under the impression they're headed to California to mourn their dead sister. Classy.)

Along their journey, the duo meets 13-year-old Haley, the daughter of an ex-showgirl. One look at the mentally-challenged lad and she sees dollar signs. She suggests they put Jimmy's abilities to use hustling kids and salesmen for extra dough.

obnoxious The moral implications of taking advantage of an idiot savant aren't really addressed. That would just get in the way of first-person shots of Ninja Gaiden and Rad Racer. The filmmakers tried to wedge a story in betwee all the 8-bit action, but it was a half-hearted attempt.

Aside from unveiling Super Mario Bros. 3, The Wizard is best known for a single dramatic scene and 1 outrageous line that suggest the screenwriter and director had never known any actual kids.

When Jimmy and his crew cross paths with the film's super-cool villain, Lucas, they quickly discover his video-game prowess hasn't just earned him his own posse, but a Nintendo device so advanced no one else has ever heard of: The almighty Power Glove. When, with gloved hand and the best Vision Street Wear money can buy, he beats the first stage of Rad Racer, he turns to Haley and utters, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad."

After gamers finally got to use the disasterous Power Glove in real life, they were suprised to learn he didn't mean it in the literal sense.

What's odd is that for a movie directly marketed to children -- primarily those obsessed with all things Nintendo -- the filmmakers didn't pay much attention to fact-checking. While parents snickered at the notion of 3 early adolescents effortlessly hitchhiking through the Nevada desert, their kids sneered at the notion that the Nintendo system would crash if a controller were yanked out mid-game.

But that's not all. Scoring 50,000 points in Double Dragon in 2 minutes? Can't happen. A child knowing exactly where a secret warp zone is on an unreleased game? Highly unlikely. Two middle-aged salesmen doubting a child could beat them at a video game - and putting money on it? Are you serious?

Despite this laughable attempt at a feature-length infomercial, Nintendo is still a major contender in the billion-dollar gaming industry. Probably because it had the good sense to drop the Power Glove from its product line.

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