Trivia

Hard

Which 1980s Film Was Criticized As Being A Feature Length Commercial?

The Brave Little Toaster
The Wizard
The Goonies
The Great Muppet Caper
The theatrical release poster for The Wizard.
Universal Pictures

Answer: The Wizard

The Wizard was a 1989 film focused on the lives of three children: Jimmy (a young boy, played by Luke Edwards, who is suffering from PTSD after his twin sister Jennifer drowned two years earlier), Corey (Jimmy’s brother, played by Fred Savage), and Haley (played by Jenny Lewis). The plot revolves around Corey breaking his brother Jimmy out of an institutional home he’s been placed in and their quest to hitchhike to California to prove, via Jimmy’s savant-like video game abilities, that he has a talent and can function outside of the home.

When framed by just the plot, the movie sounds like a pretty heartwarming one, but that didn’t stop critics at the time from panning the film as an extended commercial. How much of a commercial? The video game tournament in the movie is completely Nintendo oriented. The antagonist in the film wields a Nintendo Power Glove, which is used to show how advanced a gamer he is. The movie features screen time for a staggering number of Nintendo video games including: R.C. Pro-Am, Contra, Double Dragon, Mega Man 2, F-1 Dream, Ninja Gaiden, Rad Racer, Super Mario Bros. 2 & 3, China Gate, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It was a veritable who’s-who of popular Nintendo titles.

In his review of the film, famed movie critic Roger Ebert wrote:

The movie is filled with shots of these little kids walking down highways, and hitching rides, and walking into bars and video parlors and Reno gambling casinos, and there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t question the sanity of the film and fear for their safety. It was only after the three kids arrived safely at the championships that I began to question the ethics of the film, which is, among other things, a thinly disguised commercial for Nintendo video games and the Universal studio tour.

Overall, the number of video games and video game accessories in the film practically compete with the actors themselves for screen time. Given that, it’s little wonder that critics and parents viewed the film as little more than a Nintendo commercial.

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