The Wizard came out in 1989 after the ROM chip shortage of 1988. The delay paved the way for Nintendo to publicize the release of a new game through the movie.
It is a movie about an introvert and an autistic kid named Jimmy, who is very good at playing video games. Although the movie is about a kid’s adventure, it is considered by some as 90 minutes commercial for Super Mario Bros 3 because of the climax.
So is the Wizard just a giant Nintendo commercial?
Yes. With the amount of product placement, it is hard to deny that The Wizard was a giant Nintendo commercial. They blatantly advertise their games, products, and services throughout the whole movie, with an added focus on Super Mario Bros 3.
But there is a lot to deconstruct here, lets take a look.
About The Wizard Movie
In the movie, Jimmy is accompanied by his brother, who wants to save him from being put up in a mental institution. They are chased by their parents, who are divorced but are racing against child protection services.
Jimmy always longed to go to California, so his brother goes with him without their parent’s supervision.
They run across a girl who tells them about a video game tournament in LA. The prize money is $50,000. Since Jimmy is a pro at video games, they hoped that he would win the Video Armageddon.
Then run into Haley (Jenny Lewis), and she promises to help them get to LA and share a portion of Jimmy’s winnings at the tournament to help her parents pay for a new house.
Since then, the movie follows the kid’s journey to LA. From Ninja Gaiden to Mega Man, to the Power Glove, there are tons of references to Nintendo games, with the grand finale being the reveal of Super Mario Bros 3.
Nintendo References Are Everywhere In The Wizard
Lets Start With The Movie Poster
The movie poster gives a few clues to what a movie is all about. The poster features the cast with images of Mario, a crab, a rocket, and a snake exploding out of an 8-bit background. It is pretty clear this movie is about video games, and with the inclusion of Mario, Nintendo.
Nintendo Product Placement In Just About Every Scene
At the beginning of the movie, there is a scene where Nick, who is Jimmy’s elder brother, repairs the NES, he plays Super Mario 2, perhaps foreshadowing things to come.
If you pay close attention to the background, you will notice that there are a lot of Nintendo games displayed. No matter what games they play, the iconic Super Mario soundtrack is always audible too.
Who could forget the Power Glove scene? If the Wizard was a commercial, the scene where Lucas shows off his Power Glove is a commercial with-in a commercial. At least we got the “It’s so bad!” meme out of it.
Even though there are a few oddities that seem like the producers made careless mistakes, it is hard to miss that the kids love playing Nintendo games. Even the consultant has the theme and the game playing in the background.
During his prep for the tournament, Jimmy trains with several NES games. He is also seen practicing Super Mario 2 on a PlayChoice 10 arcade machine. He beats several older men and wins some cash along the way while his brother and Haley cheer him on.
At times the promotion gets so bad it seems forced, like when Haley makes a phone call to the Nintendo hotline to get some tips and turns into a 3-minute montage.
The Super Mario Bros 3 Climax
The climax of the movie is when the three kids reach Video Armageddon. Jimmy makes it through round after round of the elimination-style tournament until he ends up in the finals.
The MC for the final games reveals that Lucas and Jimmy will play a game that they have never played before and unveils Super Mario Bros 3!
Back then, this was big. SMB3 was supposed to release three months before the movie in America, but it got delayed.
Although it had been out for quite a while in Japan, many gamers, and just about every kid had no idea about the game until it is unveiled as the final game in the movie.
The way the movie depicts the game is mostly to show off some of the new features. Explorable world maps, magic warp whistles, and a suit that makes you fly.
I remember scanning the screen, my eyes moving left and right trying to take in as much info as my tiny little brain could process.
The footage they showed was a pre-recorded, and you can see that Jimmy and the two rivals play the same games but in different timings, but I assure you no one was looking at their hands.
So Is The Wizard Worth Watching?
Yes. If you have seen it before, it is worth watching for nostalgias sake. And if you have not watched it, there is much to enjoy here that you missed out on.
The movie is fun to watch. I mean, Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Beau Bridges, it is clear they were not messing around with casting. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what is
I am not trying to be hard on Nintendo for their product placement. It is a movie about video games so of course, we are going to see lots of games and related themes.
But it is undeniable that The Wizard is a 90-minute long commercial for Super Mario Bros 3.