Sometimes when you are young there will be a movie that you like, but when you watch it again when you are older you are disappointed. The plot, the humor, the suspense--it is not as intense as you remember. What seemed like a piece of shining radiant writing all of a sudden does not shine so bright.
Then there are the movies that, like a fine scotch, get only better with time. The movies that as you get older gain depth and profoundness. You grow older and the nuances of the script become more apparent. You can better appreciate the fine story telling, cinematography, and subtle social commentary that is present.
The Wizard starring Fred Savage is one of these movies.
What is often written off as a mere advertisement for Nintendo is in fact a heart touching story worthy of the greats themselves. Homer, William Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ann Rice, all great authors who could only dream of tying the threads of fiction into a bow like The Wizard. It is a movie that contains everything: drama, humor, Nintendo, and Fred Savage. To get such a masterpiece down to only 100 of the greatest moments is like carving out the 100 most beautiful pieces of Michelangelo’s David. Still for the last nine months, the Dumb Baby staff has slaved away, watching and rewatching the movie in an orgasmic trance, and then arguing over which parts were the best. In a fair world the entire movie would be on this list, but to do so would cheapen the idea of a list like this.
So here is the most comprehensive list of the top 100 moments of The Wizard that is available. It was not easy to create, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t love every second of it. The Wizard is a cinematic masterpiece of the highest order. It is not as much of a movie, as a spiritual reformation. You don’t watch The Wizard, you experience it. To say any less would be an insult to the movie.
100. Opening Credits - Universal Studios intro. This was before they were home to Nickelodeon and became big
When The Wizard was made in 1989 Universal Studios was not the big time player they are today. This was before Nickelodeon made their game shows there, before the release of Tremors, before the studio was a household name. Back then, they were just a small time production with a lot of dreams, a lot of spunk, and some great gams. Seeing the Universal Studios intro today reminds us that anybody can make it big with a lot of hard work and a little luck.
99. They hide from rain in phone booth
In their early travels things were going good. Fred Savage and Jimmy were able to snag a ride in a Hostess van and ride together on a skateboard down the middle of a highway. The scene in which the two of them take refuge inside of a phone booth during a rainstorm is important because it shows the hard part about running away. There are hard times that make you wish you were dead. The scene also represents the bonding the two brothers are experiencing on the road. They are together in close quarters, but that’s okay, because they are brothers, and they are bonding.
98. Jimmy makes a building out of Duplos
In the retarded kids home, the nurse notes that Jimmy has a fixation with building. Too bad he is building with Duplos. He is too old for Duplos, he should move on to Legos. You stop using Duplos when you are old enough to not swallow the smaller sized Lego pieces.
By the way, his real fixation is with video games. He is just using Duplos because he is not allowed a Nintendo in the retarded kids home.
97. Fred Savage decides to go to California by throwing a dart on a map in room
Fred plans to kidnap Jimmy and start a new life elsewhere, even though he has no money or job skills (though he does know how to make a fire in the middle of a desert). He selects California as the state to run away to based on throwing a dart on a map of the USA. Hey, it’s a good thing Jimmy really, really wants to go to California, too.
Of course, Fred didn’t select California first. The dart landed on a few other states, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska, but Fred rejected those as being boring. Like he is one to judge, he lives in Utah. We’ve all read what Maddox thinks of Utah.
96. They ride by a carnival on motorcycles
Carnivals are fun. So are motorcycles. Combining the two is a surefire way to have fun. It would be more fun to ride a motorcycle in a carnival, but riding near one is still pretty fun.
95. Sign Up Guy at Video Armageddon hams it up
Minor characters in movies are not usually very entertaining. They are there to do a job and that’s it, but not the sign up guy at Video Armageddon. He is all about entertainment. His over the top antics included saying “Ninja Gaiden” in a voice that is either an imitation of Asians, or maybe a robot. That is grade A comedy. This is just another example of how The Wizard went beyond the norm and in the process made a great film.
94. Christian Slater’s name in the Opening Credits
As soon as the viewer sees that the Christian Slater is in the movie they know it's going to be good. Sure, Fred Savage is a big name star, but Christian Slater is known for only taking roles in the finest of movies. As soon as his name comes on screen, you can be assured that this isn’t just some movie out to make a quick buck. It is a labor of love.
Christian Slater has lots of sass in this film, as you would expect from Christian Slater since he is so sassy! Now that I have run an SNL reference no one remembers into the ground, I’ll also mention that Christian Slater really hates his dad. They argue over breakfast and his very first line is “Don’t call me a man!” That’s odd. Hmm, I wonder if Christian’s hard nosed attitude comes from him having to repress his transsexualism. He doesn’t like his dad because the old man was always pressuring Christian to play sports and go hunting when what Christian really wanted to put on makeup and wear dresses. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
At any rate, Christian just doesn’t want to deal with all this bullshit. He just wants to kick back at the Dairy Queen.
93. When the Theme Song said “Tears of a Clown"
A clown is an entity designed to bring joy. It is not suppose to cry. When a clown does cry it produces a shocking paradox. What could happen to make a clown cry? What would the consequences of a clown’s tear be? These are questions that can never be answered because to answer them would mean answering the unanswerable questions of the universe.
I assumed this song was by U2.
92. Fred Savage’s dad is a bad cook
In one of the opening scenes, Fred Savage’s father is trying to cook a meal but with hilarious consequences. Smoke is literally coming out of the oven due to his ineptitude. I don’t know if bad cooking was ever used as a comic device before, but I doubt it. This scene serves several purposes. It introduces Fred Savage’s father as a bundling but lovable oath, and also shows that he is not accustomed to living on his own. He must be a recent divorcee if he is this bad at cooking and isn’t making his wife prepare the food.
90. Fred Savage sneaks Jimmy out of the home
This children's home has no security what so ever. I guess they assumed they didn’t need any since they are the middle of a desert, so any kid who escapes will risk dying like an illegal Mexican going through Arizona. Plus, they have the airplane on standby. But they didn’t count on the ingenuity of Fred Savage and a strategically placed Wonder Bread truck.
89. They hide out in the storeroom of the bus station
While Fred Savage is trying to wrangle up some bus tickets, the coppers come rolling by. Fred Savage know that the fuzz are looking to put him and his brother away, so they hide out in the storage room of the bus station. The man running the bus station apparently does not care that they are back there, possibly stealing from him or doing crystal meth. He just hopes the cops don’t find out he is an illegal immigrant.
88. Fred Savage says “ass”
When The Wizard was in theaters, people around the world were shocked at Fred Savage’s use of the obscenity “ass”. News personalities and authority figures everywhere were asking, “Can he do that?”
Well the answer is yes he can. This was one of the early controversies regarding Fred Savage, but it didn’t stop him. It barely even slowed him down. He kept getting offers like a hooker on New Year's Eve. This showed that Fred Savage is capable of pushing the boundaries of what is seen as being “traditionally” appropriate and not suffer any major consequences.
85. Jimmy stares down cow in cow truck
While riding in the back of the truck full of cows, Jimmy stares a cow straight in the eyes. He might not say anything besides “California” but his stare says more then any sentence ever could.
84. In Reno, there is an old man in a speedo
This is horrible because that entire casino hotel appears to be populated solely by kids at the moment. The only reason for an old man in a speedo to be galvanizing about is to check out the prepubescent scene and maybe attract a child with his impressive old man sack. This was in the day before Myspace, back when pedophiles couldn’t hide behind the internet, so we were forced to go out in the open to catch young prey.
83. They call the Nintendo Help Line and get help for every game ever made
The Wizard was made in the days before the internet offered walkthroughs for any game out there, and before video game magazines prominently filled magazine racks across America, so how are our protagonists suppose to learn all the tricks of the biggest games available? They call the Nintendo Power Line. When the Game Play Counselor asks her what game Haley wants to know about she says all of them. While most Game Play Counselors would have responded by saying, “Fuck you I’m not telling you about every game ever made, get more specific” this one instead helps her out. Chances were Video Armageddon wasn’t going to have Xevious be the opening game, but if it were, then Haley would know that you can skip the fortress by pausing and then unpausing right before the fight.
82. Fred Savage puts on scary mask and is punched by Haley
Haley is an independent woman, she ain’t going to let no man scare her with no mask. She totally takes out that that symbol of the male hegemonic patriarchy by popping Fred Savage in the face. Take that asshole.
81. Nick and Dad have troubles while driving
The Wizard’s story is fairly heavy-handed, with themes such as mental retardation, Nintendo, and hitchhiking. So to lighten things up the movie will sometimes focus on the adventures Nick and Dad have trying to find Fred Savage and Jimmy. One time we find out that they have been driving all night IN THE WRONG DIRECTION! If that wasn’t bad enough, while consulting the map, Dad swerves into the wrong lane and they are almost hit by oncoming traffic. This lightens the mood and provides comedy we won’t soon forget.
80. They ride in the back of a pickup while Soundgarden jams
This movie has an awesome soundtrack: Patsy Cline, Bobby Brown, U2, Paul Anka, “Send Me An Angel” and Soundgarden. I can see why everyone in the early Seattle grunge scene initially thought Soundgarden was going to be the first breakout success before Nirvana, they already had a Nintendo movie under their belt and there was nothing bigger in 1989 than Nintendo. A music band getting in with Nintendo back then is like winning American Idol now.
On another note, New Kids on the Block also have a song on this movie, "(You've Got It) The Right Stuff". I only recognized the tune because Weird Al did a parody called “The White Stuff” so I honestly expected that part of the movie to feature Oreo cookies. Needless to say, I was set up for disappointment.
79. They sleep in a junkyard full of broken cars
While on the road, where are a group of penniless preteens suppose to stay? Do you think a hotel would give them a room? No way, the last thing a hotel wants is to be known as the place where twelve year olds go to have sex. The group instead takes refuge in a junkyard full of dilapidated cars. This isn’t pointless filler either. While staying in an old semi we learn that Haley’s father is a truck driver. She was accompanying him on a trip when he decided to send her back home early for no apparent reason. This is important background information that is sure to lead to important plot points later in the film.
78. Fred Savage and gang befriend both bikers and truck drivers, they now rule the road.
The topic sentence sums it up. The kids are helped by a biker gang and then by a trucker gang. Befriending both factions has never been done before. The gap between truckers and bikers has always been too wide because bikers can’t use CB radios while driving. But Freddy and friends did it and now the National Highway System is theirs.
77. They sent an airplane to find Jimmy - tremendous overkill plus the pilot was drunk
The opening scene finds Jimmy wandering down a lone highway on his way to California. The authorities sent an airplane pilot to find him, even though an airplane pilot would not be able to bring him back. Even worse, the pilot appears to be intoxicated given the fact that he is flying in an erratic pattern. He’s lucky he didn’t crash into Jimmy. Should we really be trusting Jimmy’s future on people who send drunk pilots to get him when he runs away?
76. Closing credits
The end credits have the family driving away in the pickup truck while "I Found My Way" by Sally Dworsky plays. This song is very appropriate because the lyrics match up the movie’s plot line exactly.
I’m traveling blind trapped in darkness [Our heroes travel across America not knowing what will happen next] / I’m trying to find easy rules to win the game [They consult the Nintendo Power Line] / Go around and round an old disguise so full of doubt [Haley pretends to be someone she is not] / But I’m turning around cause now it’s my time [Jimmy plays it hard to prove himself at Video Armageddon] / I’m standing on the edge of tomorrow. Leaving far behind my yesterdays. [Super Mario Brothers 3 is the game of tomorrow. Also, our heroes grow up and Jimmy comes to term with his dead sister]
The only song that would have fit better with The Wizard is “Velcro Fly” by ZZ Top. But "I Found My Way" kicks so much ass it doesn’t even try to rhyme.
74. Mom tells Bounty Hunter to shut up
The parent’s incompetence is once again proven when they hire a bounty hunter to get Jimmy. Normal protocol is to have the police or social services handle finding missing children. Instead Jimmy’s mother and stepfather hire a bounty hunter. Not even a good bounty hunter. They hire some punk ass jive monkey who is constantly acting like a dick and bugging kids who are trying to play pinball. When the mom realizes her mistake and finally tells him to shut up, the entire audience is cheering her on.
73. Ja Ja Berjorn and Pee Wee Herman in Mayhem in Monte Carlo
Why the hell hasn’t this movie been made in real life? Why did Peter Jackson need to waste his time with THREE whole Lord of the Rings movies when he could have made just one and spent the rest of his time putting Mayhem in Monte Carlo together?
72. The waitress in the casino is not wearing pants
71. Bounty Hunter pays a tow truck driver to tow Dad’s car
Dad and Nick head into a diner to find some clues on Fred Savage and Jimmy’s whereabouts. The bounty hunter is outside. He has already been bested by Dad in physical combat, so he turns to a sneakier way to keep him from finding his children. He asks some guy with a tow truck to tow Dad’s car away. You would think that the tow truck guy wouldn’t just tow a car like that, since I’m guessing it’s illegal to tow a car without the owner’s permission, but he does it anyway. He is totally going to lose his license.
70. The music stolen from Rain Man
Remember the movie Rain Man? And how it taught us the true meaning of brotherly love? The music in The Wizard sounds a lot like the music from Rain Man. The similarities don’t end their either. Both movies are about somebody who has a distant relationship with their brother who is mentally retarded and has some sort of super power. It could be said that The Wizard is just ripping off Rain Man, but since The Wizard is about a million billion times better, I say that Rain Man ripped off The Wizard.
69. Fred Savage yells at his family
Early in the movie, Fred Savage finds out that his brother is going to be put in a home. They never specifically say what kind of home, but judging by his reaction it is not the kind of home that Fred Savage wants his brother to be in. First he yells at his dad for not doing anything to help Jimmy. Then he tells his brother “All you care about is yourself” even though his brother didn’t say or do anything that would imply that he only cares about himself. This scene shows that Fred Savage still believes that Jimmy can be saved. Everybody else may have given up on him, but not Fred Savage.
68. Jimmy beats businessmen at a Nintendo game and wins money
That’s right, you’ve been PWONED. How about in another thirty years, old men in business suits who play video games are going to be common.
You’ve been PWONED!
It's also awesome Jimmy hussled them at Tom Petty: the Video Game. If you could do this in real life then Johnny’s mad Super Dodge Ball skillz would have made him rich a long time ago.
67. Mr. Johnny Love is paged over the casino loud speakers
Its time to come clean. From 1987-1993 I was a lounge singer in various casinos in Reno. Not wanting to use my real name, I sang under the pseudonym Mr. Johnny Love. I actually remember the week they filmed in our casino. It was pretty cool because I convinced some teamsters to let me play the Nintendo games in the arcade between takes. One day I got so caught up playing Simon’s Quest I almost missed my 4:15 show. They paged me over the speaker system, and my name made it into the background of the movie.
-Johnny (Love) Dangerous
66. Spanky drives them to LA
Spanky apparently stole a truck to take the kids to the video game competition. That’s how far he will go for his only friends. He turns the wheel like a maniac yet the truck stays perfectly straight. The actor playing Spanky has obviously never driven or even seen someone drive a car.
65. The MC yells "15 minute fight for 15,000 smackaroos!!!!!!!!!!!"
I only put eleven exclamation marks in the title, but MC’s ferrous yell was equal to at least 50. I’m not even going to elaborate why this moment is great. If you can’t appreciate him yelling that phrase with that much tenacity then it’s pointless to try to explain it.
64. There is a TV with a Nintendo inside a restaurant table
Man, I know Nintendo was huge back in the day, and I understand having arcade games in every building we see, but this is ridiculous. Did TVs hooked up to video game consoles sitting under restaurant tables ever really exist anywhere other than in our wildest dreams? Those aren’t even practical. Having to look straight down is going to be a pain on the neck and keeping your food from covering up the TV will be hard when you have other people at the table. But according to The Wizard, people don’t want to do anything other than play video games all day.
63. Fred Savage sneaks Jimmy away in Wonder Bread truck
When Fred Savage sneaks Jimmy out of the home they ride away in style. An unguarded Wonder Bread truck on its delivery route provides a way for them to not only make great time but also fill their faces with great tasting bread. Strangely enough, the man driving the Wonder Bread truck never noticed Jimmy and Fred Savage. This means they either found a place to hide in the back of a small truck, or he drove from the home, which is in town, to the gas station in the middle of the desert without stopping. This seems to me like it would be a long way for him to drive without making any deliveries.
Even stranger, a person at the home tells Jimmy’s parents that Fred and Jimmy took off in the Wonder Bread truck. You would think that he would have told the police to pull over the truck, or called whoever is in charge of Wonder Bread delivery, but he didn’t. That guy probably didn’t even want to catch Jimmy. Some kid saying "California" all the time gets real old real fast.
62. Fred Savage gives Jimmy his ill-fitting hat
Usually baseball caps have a thing in the back which allows them to easily fit onto any sized head. But Fred Savage’s brother is retarded so he doesn’t know how to work that.
61. Bounty Hunter and Dad fight
Fight scenes in movies are as common as bagel shops in Himey Town. These days it really takes something special to make one fight scene stand out from the pack. The Wizard easily accomplishes this feat. It all begins with the bounty hunter slashing Dad’s tires. Dad responds the same way we all would, by smashing the bounty hunter’s car with a shovel. Then when the bounty hunter drives away Dad throws the shovel, not unlike a javelin. This scene is the reason that always I keep a shovel in my truck. Maybe, someday, I will get a chance to throw that shovel at somebody as they try to drive away from me.
60. “Do you think they would put him in a home after he wins this?”
Haley thinks that if Jimmy wins Video Armageddon then it will prove he is sane. I see no flaws in this plan. It’s kind of like the time I proved I was a U.S. citizen by getting to level three of Guerilla War.
59. Nick fixes a broken Nintendo and hooks it up in a mechanic's office
After the bounty hunter trashes their car, Nick and Dad head to the mechanic's. While there, Dad is surprised to find Nick playing a Nintendo in the waiting area. Turns out he found Fred Savage’s old Nintendo in their car, fixed it, and then set it up in the mechanic's office.
There are two things that make this scene great. First, Nick was just able to fix a Nintendo without any tools or knowledge of how a Nintendo work. The other great thing is that he just went ahead and set up a Nintendo in a waiting room without asking permission from the mechanic. That takes a lot of guts. You aren’t suppose to just do stuff like that. You don’t own the waiting room. What if somebody wants to watch TV? Well fuck them. They can watch Nick play some mother fucking Adventures of Link.
58. Jimmy is friendly to some Indians
I was outside this building smoking when these guys came up to me and said hey I’m glad you came we got to watch the movie. The last time this happened I got to watch Mallrats and talk with Kevin. Kevin wasnt there and I don’t think I was in the movie that we watched. I didnt really pay attention either. I just kind of drank a 30 pack of Beast and passed out on the floor. I woke up at one point and some kid was hanging out with some Indians or something I don’t know. The next time I woke up it was 3 am and everybody was gone. I stole the tv and vcr and traded them for some weed.
55. The introduction of Haley
When we first meet Haley in the bus station, she is reading Cosmopolitan magazine. When she gets up to confront Fred and Jimmy, she bookmarks her place in the magazine. Why would she need a bookmark for Cosmo, is she worried about losing her place among the forty lipstick ads? When they do meet, Fred tells Haley that Jimmy could “wax your tail.” Man, the sexual tension in The Wizard is off the wall. Zippity zap!
51. The bounty hunter hassles a kid who is playing pinball
Back in 1989, I auditioned for the role of Brian Stevenson in the movie Little Monsters. The director told me I was too old to play a child and hired Fred Savage instead. Fuck Fred Savage. Instead of watching this movie like I was suppose to, I stayed home and watched Pennies from Heaven.