The Wizard

The Spoony One | Aug 11 2009 | more notation(s) | 
The Wizard

A Review by Noah Antwiler

I was eight years old when I first saw The Wizard and I tell you this now, no lie: I thought it was the greatest movie ever filmed. Of course, I was a fucking idiot when I was eight, but that doesn't take away the pain of knowing at one time, I was exactly the kind of brainwashed mark every advertising executive thinks we are. God, I hated me as a kid. I wasn't exactly the kind of kid who watched those really vapid cartoons or played with dolls, but I was still a huge geek. I spent my spare time writing BASIC code, reading Tolkien, and most of all, playing video games. A goddamn ton of video games. We had an Intellivision at home, one of those peripheral consoles like the Colecovision that never garnered as much press as the Atari-- and say what you want, I had a better time playing those games than I ever would have with an Atari 2600-- and after that, my mom bought the Nintendo Entertainment System, better known as the NES.

Most of the games trotted out on the NES were crap, and this was before there was any kind of Internet or GameFAQs or Gamespot sites you could check reviews that would warn you away from terrible games. The only real source of information we had was Nintendo Power Magazine (of which I was a faithful subscriber) and it's not like the house rag is going to trash any game licensed for the system. It all came down to word-of-mouth and I didn't really have many friends, so I was screwed. Worse, I was stupid enough to think that games licensed from popular movies (Robocop, Total Recall, Batman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Home Alone, Top Gun, etc etc.) would be just as awesome as the films themselves. This was before I figured out the rule that games with movie, comic book, or television licenses always, ALWAYS suck. And even when I knew this, I kept thinking that the next one would be the exception. Why else did I bother to purchase The X-Files Game? Because I'm a fucking sap, that's why.

Ah, many were the days I wasted at filthy bus stations, pumping quarters into a Bubble Bobble machine... Good times.

Thing is, once you bought a game you were stuck with it. You'd sunk around $30 to $60 on that hunk of plastic and by god you were gonna play it. NES gamers had to condition themselves into denial through stubbornness and an unwillingness to accept defeat. You learned to like Fester's Quest. My proudest moment in gaming is the day I actually beat The Adventures of Bayou Billy, without cheating, in one sitting. Oh yeah, I did it. I made that horrible, horrible game my bitch, and you don't even want to know how many weeks of my life I burned doing it. But I got my damn $40 out of it. Better believe it.

My point is that we've become really picky gamers now. At least I have. I don't make any purchase without checking reviews on Gamespot and Gamefaqs. That's not to say I follow reviews like an obedient sheep, but I definitely want to know what the game's strengths are and what complaints people have before I'm putting my cash down for it. You think I would have ever bought the Ghostbusters game if there was any way to check a review of it online? But at the time we didn't really care. Ya rolled the dice, ya takes yer chances. We were just so happy to be playing video games out of the arcade that we enjoyed almost everything we had. We at least tried to finish them out of raw determination to see the ending screen which never turned out to be as satisfying as we hoped. Nowadays you'd offload that crap at a GameStop or your Electronic Boutique for four bucks of trade credit and consider your loss the cost of valuable life experience. Like never remove the shrinkwrap before checking the reviews online. And keep your receipt. And never buy a movie-licensed game.

But man oh man, at the time there was nothing cooler than the Nintendo. I had Duck Hunt, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and best of all, Contra. Anyone who used the Konami Code was a pussy. You needed 30 lives to beat that game? Loser! I had Mike Tyson's Punch-Out but Iron Mike was kicking my ass so it was shelved for a month or two until I calmed down and stopped snapping controllers over my own head. That damn system was my life. It's why I still have a lot of respect for the marketing The Wizard, a film that's basically nothing more than a feature-length commercial for Nintendo's new product lineup-- something I don't think has been done to such effect until the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh TV shows aired. It's genius, it really is. They had these fantastic new gimmicky products like the Power Glove (a titanic piece of shit, but admit it, every kid who ever saw a commercial for it deeply coveted one), the new Super Mario game, and it was a movie about playing video games! More than that, it was about being the best gamer and proving it in a high-stakes national competition, which permitted the fantasy that were one to practice enough and play enough games, you might actually become good enough to make a living doing nothing but touring the country and winning gaming competitions. Now that's an incentive to keep playing. We wanted to see how it was possible to become such a gamer so we could avoid things like school and work, and become some kind of crazy video game celebrity god with money and power. Every kid's dream, aside from being hired to work as the taster for an ice cream factory. And finally it starred Fred Savage from The Wonder Years, one of my favorite shows as a kid. I was going to see this flick.

I'm not sure when I grew up and became a snarky bastard, but it might have been a few years later when they tried a similar marketing tactic and made the Super Mario Bros. movie, one of the first movies I can remember watching as a child and walking out of the theater raving about how godawful it was. Now that was a movie that licked shit-stains off a monkey cage. Why didn't I get that one instead?

Because The Wizard defined my childhood and that of every geek my age! Sounds stupid, but it's true! Other than the initial screening of Batman, I can think of no movie event that I was more anxious to see as a kid. All the more reason to tear it down, don't you think?

We begin in the middle of a lonely stretch of desert highway, a place that looks hauntingly like the New Mexico desert where Atari buried its unsellable copies of E.T. The Extraterrestrial like so much toxic waste. The opening credit tells us that this is "a Finnegan*Pinchuk Company production." And I was just thinking this movie looked like a Finnegan*Pinchuk. We see a frightening little boy (but then, all children terrify me) walking alone towards the camera, carrying a lunchbox while some really grating and nonsensical 80s pop song plays. It sounds like U2 if Bono wrote his lyrics with a serious head injury. I'm not kidding. It sounds like "With or Without You" with completely insane, nonsensical lyrics. See if you can make any sense out of this:

There's two boys holdin' stars for the wishin' (Invincibility stars like in Super Mario? Or is this a gay thing?)
Yeah one boy's sure one says "I don't know" (Definitely a gay thing...)
But sometimes I feel we been missin' (Missing WHAT?)
Love I try, and away they go (Love you try? The hell does that mean? And away WHO goes? Slow down!!)
And in this ol' town the wind starts blowin (There's your generic Springsteen lyric #3)
And the radio sings blues for free (Doesn't it sing everything for free? It's the radio.)
We got the bottle down for soakin' dreams (yeah!) (What?! Is this translated from the original Japanese or something?)
"Tears of a clown" well, hey, that's me (Let's not bring up a good song in the middle of your crap song.)
And hearts that fall in two pretend they don't show (Show WHAT? Complete your thoughts!)
Holding back the rain, baby, let it go (And there's your generic Night Ranger lyric #1)
You don't get much without giving (Now he's ripping off The Beatles? He's all over the map!)
You don't get much without giving ("Don't let go, you only get what you give!")
Hey! Hey! Yeah! Hey! Hey! Yeah! ("Don't don't don't don't...don't you...forget about me...")
Hey! Hey! Yeah! Hey! Hey! Yeah! (Sorry, I'm drifting off to better songs.)
Oh, she left one shoe behind in the back hallway (Strange thing to forget. She must have been in a hurry to leave.)
She left one memory the strangest kind (The strangest kind of memory...One time I found a slice of pizza in the ball-pit of McDonald's once. That's close.)
I guess naive love songs are savin' grace (I...I barely know where to begin with this one.)
When losers win in this losin' race (So...winners lose in this losin' race? Wait, how do you win? You...lose?)
And hearts that fall in two pretend they don't show (I didn't eat that slice of pizza, in case you're wondering. I'm not completely disgusting.)
Holding back the rain, baby, let it go (I've figured it out! This song is an allegory for needing to use the bathroom!)
You don't get much without giving (It's a basic rule of investment, really.)
You don't get much without giving (Yeah yeah, and the love you take is equal to the love you make.)
Hey! Hey! Yeah! Hey! Hey! Yeah!
Hey! Hey! Yeah! Hey! Hey! Yeah!
Oh......You don't get much You don't get much (Wait for it. This is going to be huge. The whole song has been leading up to what I don't get much of.)
You don't get much You don't get much (Oh come on! Tell me what I don't get much of! Respect? Love? What the hell are you singing about? Shoes??)
Oh.... Oh......

Guh, I feel like I was molested by that song. As for the kid, he's walking completely along in the desert with nothing but desert in sight for miles. Damn, and I thought my parents were strict when they made me walk to school. A single-prop plane follows the highway and radios in that they've found the kid. Bonus points if it tries to run him down like Cary Grant in North by Northwest! A highway patrol officer engages the nitrous in his truck and rockets to the scene in record time while the plane (I'll just assume it's a volunteer because it's clearly a civilian aircraft) continues to buzz dangerously close to the kid, probably scaring the crap out of him. The trooper pulls alongside the boy and radios back "yeah, it's him all right." Yup. It's the runaway boy and not just some Fremen child. Good thing we double-checked. He could have been anybody.

Jimmy has come to reap the souls of the damned!

The trooper gets out and has to physically stop the boy. He asks the kid where he thinks he's going. The kid looks distant with his little beady Satanic eyes and says "Califooorrrnniaa" like a zombie craves brains. He is seriously creeping me out right now. Kids who wear button-up shirts with collars are just about the scariest thing I can imagine. The cop backs cautiously away from the devil spawn, hand drifting to his weapon. He gets on the radio and says "Well I found him, now what do you want me to do with him?" Um, take him back home? What do you think she's gonna say? Take him down to processing and put him in the tank? All this time, the kid is just standing in the middle of the road, staring at the horizon with an eerie emotionless calm like he's fucking Damien in The Omen. At any moment a plague of locusts could descend on this truck and tear the trooper to bits.

Dispatch tells the cop to take him to his mom's place, adding "she's remarried" for your Spielbergian character archetype. You know, the intelligent kid with the emotionally-distant father figure? The next scene shows us the kid sitting alone in a room playing with big Lego blocks, building pagan ziggurats and chanting curses in ancient Hebrew. I bet they gave him the blocks because when they let him use crayons he would draw horrible murder images and pictures of his family burning to death in a charnel pit. The social worker asks if the kid has had a history of running away, and asks if he's tried to see "Corey or Nick" or his natural father. Who, SATAN? The mother, Christine, stares vacantly out the window as if she's lost in horror flashbacks of the last time her son was displeased and immolated a school bus full of innocent children. Sam McMurray sees that she's not going to answer and goes on to rant about how the kid runs away all the time. From his attitude towards Christine, he must be the Spielbergian Father Figure. McMurray's playing the usual blowhard asshole type you get in kid movies: rich with a snobby New England prick accent and who usually owns a rival hockey team that seems certain to win the championship. His character's name is Bateman-- the same name as the American Psycho!! Holy crap! No wonder this kid is evil incarnate!

The social worker cuts Bateman off in the middle of his ranting ("he runs away to the mountains! He goes to the rivers! blah blah!" and says she's noticed that Jimmy has a fixation with building things (yeah, it's called autism) and she'd like to think these buildings mean something. She says the kid must simply be trying to express himself. You fool, they're just future plans for his sacrificial altars to Beelzebub! Kill him! Kill him now! But the counselor thinks they should encourage him creatively and nurture his unique talents. Bateman says that sounds like work and demands that he be placed in an institution. Great dad. "Throw the bastard into an asylum!"

Elsewhere, we see Fred Savage sitting down for breakfast while his John Ritteresque dad pulls a smoking hunk of something out of the oven. ("Mom! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!") Actually the dad is Beau Bridges, but I swear he looks a lot like a husky John Ritter. Fred asks if it's safe to be near it without 3 inches of lead shielding between them. Christian Slater (!!) is seated nearby and says "I was in Heathers." So let's see, we have the American Psycho as your estranged dad, Damien as the young devilspawn child, and the suicidal emo guy who goes on a bombing spree in Heathers. The odds that Fred grows up normal in this family are slim.

Fred mentions that they saw Jimmy the other day, but Dad doesn't seem all that interested, saying it's Christine's problem now since she got custody. Fred says Jimmy's not doing well, and that everyone's considering putting him in an institution. Christian tries to gracefully escape from the radioactive casserole by saying "Y'knowonsecondthoughtI'mreallynotthathungry - IthinkI'llpicksomethinguplaterbye!" But Dad stops him by demanding to know what's up with the truck; he found it this morning with mud all over it. He took it against his explicit instructions! Christian smacks Fred in the arm and asks "Why do you keep doing this?"


"They're gonna put him in a home!!" Fred roars, taking me completely by surprise.

"What about the rules?" Dad whines, "The pickup--"

"The pickup?! The rules?!" Fred rages on, "YOU ALWAYS DO THIS!" Holy shit, Fred is gonna choke a bitch...

"But--"

"NO, DAD, WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME?!?!" Fred shrieks. I take it back, suddenly Fred is the scariest fucker in this whole family. He's totally reading his own dad the riot act. "You wanna see that happen? HUH? You wanna see 'em put Jimmy in a home?!" Fred is literally frothing and spraying he's so angry. And he's holding his own father down in the corner and jacking him in the face with a toaster.

"Corey--" Dad whimpers, his balls utterly shattered.

"No, dad, FINE! Just because he's my half brother it doesn't even matter!!" And out Fred goes. He stormed out of his own house and left his father quaking. Can you imagine talking to your own dad like that? And winning? Dad looks poleaxed at Christian, who seems inspired by Fred's awesome tirade and goes out the door after saying "Enjoy your casserole (bitch)."

Christian follows Fred outside. Bad move! You know how Fred gets when he's been drinking. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" he growls. Christian asks why Fred's still doing this to himself; it's been two years. "Yeah?! What do you care?" Fred snaps. This kid has some serious attitude! He's afraid of no man!

Christian tries to bury the hatchet-- or more accurately, try to talk Fred down from going on a hatchet rampage. He asks if they can just go down to the Dairy Queen and "kick back a couple," whatever that means. You don't "kick back" an Oreo Bilzzard. Fred shakes his head and spits out the word "NO. You didn't even CARE. All you care about is yourself!" Oh this house must be a joy to live in. Later, we can hear Dad and Christian arguing throughout the house. Dad's doing most of the screaming, angry that he doesn't get any respect around here. Notice that he's not yelling at Fred, because you don't talk that way to Fred Savage. He'll fucking kill you. Fred lounges on his bed, seething in anger and looking at a scrap of paper with the address of the institute Jimmy's being held at on it. I bet Fred's deep-seated rage triggers his latent psychic powers and the rest of the movie is his rampage through the city to free his brother, destroying anything in his path with his mind. Like Akira but with the kid from The Wonder Years.

Fred sits up and starts throwing darts at a map of the continental United States on his wall. First he hits South Dakota, then Arkansas, then Nebraska. Wow, he's managing to hit all the shittiest, most boring places to live in the United States in ascending order! With his last dart, he nails California and suddenly gets an inspired look on his face. Why, who can't resist the siren call of California? Simple as that, Fred resolves to pack his belongings and run away to that mystic land. That land being, of course...Califoooorrnia.

But first he has to break Jimmy out of the Greenriver Hospital, so he hops a bus and goes there with skateboard in tow. And he's prepared, man. He's got a backpack, a trucker hat, and an empty canteen. He's ready for this quest. He stealthily stalks the halls without encountering a single solitary soul guarding the place. Not a nurse, not a doctor, not an orderly, nothing! Eventually he finds Jimmy watching some weird black-and-white movie on the television. I half expected him to find Jimmy drawing pentagrams on the walls with a nurse's intestinal tract. Fred kneels down and tells Jimmy that they're going to go traveling together. Jimmy continues to stare ahead with vacant eyes, but says "Califoooornia?" Get used to this line, folks. Jimmy's got a half-track mind. Though I have to concede that his ability to pronounce "California" correctly does make him more qualified to govern the state than, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Oh, fine Mr. Cahl-ee-faux-nee-uh. Anyway, they break out of the mental hospital so easily I'm beginning to understand how The Joker keeps breaking out of Arkham no matter how many times Batman sends him back there. They just walk out the door and stow away in the back of a Wonder Bread truck that happens to be parked outside. I guess they just assume it's going to California. Or maybe in a deleted scene they hijack the truck by garroting the driver and demanding that he drive to L.A. or they'll choke him to death. These two kids are a killing spree waiting to happen.

Dad arrives at the hospital shortly thereafter with a policemen. The cop is rather irate at having to track down two more of his runaway kids. "I don't have time to keep tracking down your runaway boys!" he berates Dad. Actually, I bet he does. This is Utah, after all. I mean, does anything happen in Utah? Well, except for polygamy, incest and kiddie rape by extreme Mormon fundamentalists, but the cops don't waste their time with that. The cop revises his previous statement, saying that he knows one of them is handicapped. Christian Slater tells him Jimmy isn't handicapped, just the Antichrist. Inside, Bateman (who I hereby dub The American Fucko) is talking to the hospital administrator, who explains that the boys were seen (by who?!) jumping into a delivery truck. The American Fucko gets up, barely bothering to hide his disinterest. "Oh, wow, my autistic son is missing and probably bleeding in a ditch somewhere with his kidneys stolen by Mexican illegals who sell them for tequila on the black market. Very sad. Gotta go."

Putnam: He'll touch your breast.

Beau Bridges enters, and TAF gets a look on face like "oh good, here's someone I can really be an asshole to." He affects some concern for Jimmy and tells Beau that thanks to Fred, his poor deranged son Jimmy is being hauled across the country in a truck full of Hostess Sno-balls. Christine explains that the police are on the case, but they've hired a private investigator named Mr. Putnam, who specializes in runaways, to find Jimmy.

"What about Corey?" asks Beau.

Baaaaah, screw Corey! I'm putting Mr. Putnam on orders to shoot whoever tries to resist! Fucko asks rhetorically whether or not it would do any good to bring Corey back since he ran away on purpose. You know, considering how terrible a father Beau is and stuff. No offense. Beau just leaves, impressing me with his ability to resist the urge to grab Fucko by his faggy little necktie and ram his head into the edge of the desk until it splits open like a coconut, spilling his delicious gray meatstuff all over the floor.

"You know, Bateman," Christian says in that world-famous Jack Nicholson cadence, "I always thought you were a jerk. Until now I just thought it was guilt by association." Yeah dude, when you're too snarky for Christian Slater, you've got some serious sarcasm issues.

Putnam confronts Beau outside as they're climbing into the car and warns him that he only gets paid if he finds the kid first. So everyone had better stay out of his way! Putnam, bro, this is a child, not a bounty. There's no need to be a creepy weirdo over this. Beau shares a look with Christian as if to say "ah, so he's gonna be one of those characters, huh..." and they go back to the house to pick up some extra clothes.

The Wonder Bread truck pulls up to one of those "last bathroom for 80 miles" gas stations in the middle of the desert: the kind of place where the key to the bathoom has a rasp the size of a Louisville Slugger and when you get in there it looks like someone painted the walls with Hormel chili. Fred and Jimmy emerge from the back of the truck, mouths covered with frosting. Fred whips out a road map as we can see the utter desolation around them. Jimmy just walks blindly forward following that dark desert highway, cool wind in his hair...warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air...

Sorry. Started channelling "Hotel California" there for a second.

This is Haley, a filthy, filthy tramp. You'll see!

After walking all day, Fred & Jimmy bivouwac down against a rock wall while Fred gets his bearings on his handy road map. Jimmy isn't much of a conversationalist, so Fred goes on talking about how they're in Goblin Valley. He tries an impromptu Andy Rooney "why do they call it Goblin Valley anyway" comedy routine. Why not "Happy Valley" or "Axe Murderer's Valley?" It doesn't scan. You really need Andy's dry delivery to sell that kind of wry observational humor, Fred.

They manage to hitch a ride to the next bus station. Fred tethers Jimmy to the nearest arcade machine, stuffs a quarter in, and tells him to play while he talks to the clerk. Jimmy gawks in fascination at the game in the machine which I recognize from the opening music alone: Double Dragon. I actually didn't know Double Dragon was an arcade game. In fact, it probably wasn't but there are a number of mistakes just like this all over the movie when it comes to the games. Fred asks the clerk for tickets to California and is kindly asked to narrow it down a little. Fred says Los Angeles is fine, and the fare turns out to be $227. Fred asks how far $27.80 gets them. Um, McDonald's?

Fred spots a police cruiser pulling up outside the bus station, so he decides to make tracks. He pulls Jimmy away from the machine, but notices with awe that he scored 50,000 points on Double Dragon! Which in the 45 seconds he spent at the counter is impossible unless Jimmy is, in fact, the Beyonder and can warp time & space to play through the game about twice. Also, Fred is staring a the top of the screen when the score kept in Double Dragon is at the bottom. Don't try to out-geek me, boys, I am the Wizard!

A red-headed girl in a floral print dress watches them leave with great interest and follows them into the back room of the station. She introduces herself as Haley and demands to know what they're up to or she'll scream for the cop outside. Jimmy eyeballs her creepily, so she asks what his problem is. Jimmy? Oh, he's the angel of death, come to reap the souls of the guilty. Fred says there's nothing wrong with Jimmy aside from the deep-seated seed of evil, and he just kicked ass at Double Dragon. Haley is incredulous, but Fred says "he could wax your tail!" Eew. That's gross. I want to watch. Haley makes me think impure, dirty thoughts.

Fred bets her the price of a ticket that he could "wax her tail" at Double Dragon, and she accepts. Turns out Haley SUCKS at the game, so even a retarded box turtle like Jimmy can beat her. Fred grabs up the money and wrestles with Haley, who thinks they're running some kind of scam. Yeah Haley, they go around bus stations and con people out of $30 bus tickets by hustling them at Double Dragon. They spend so much time arguing that they miss the bus.

Meanwhile, Christian and Beau are in the truck trying to follow the elusive path of the cupcake truck. Beau wakes Christian up and says "Hey, where the hell are we?" Not a good sign when your driver wakes you up to ask that. Christian isn't sure, seeing as how he's been asleep for four hours, but says they probably should be heading west. Beau nods and says "We're heading west." Only they're heading south. It's an even worse sign when your driver can't tell which way west is. By now they are hopelessly lost and probably halfway through Arizona. Beau is so fatigued he's veering into oncoming traffic, so I don't think Mr. Putnam needs to worry about anyone reaching the kids first. These guys will find Cortez's lost city of gold before they find Jimmy.

The kids retire to a nearby diner across the street where they've managed to find another arcade machine. Haley marvels at Jimmy's ability to game, saying it's his second time through Ninja Gaiden and he hasn't even taken a hit yet. Only...

He has.

I also don't think this is the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden. I recognize the NES port. Haley smells money in this kid and asks Fred why they don't exploit Jimmy for money somehow. Fred says it's warped, and Haley wonders aloud why Fred is letting such talent go to waste by dragging him off to California. Uh oh, you shouldn't have said the C-word in front of Jimmy! "Califoooornia..." he moans. Ugh, like a broken record with this kid. Haley insists that there's hope. She grabs a magazine from the counter and says they won't want to put Jimmy in a hospital if he wins Video Armageddon, a national video game contest!

Fred doesn't think it's a good idea. "Jimmy, he's..."

"What?" Haley asks, "too crazy? Too stupid?" Well...yeah. She proposes a business arrangement; if she can get them to California and he wins the contest, they split the prize money. Kind of a half-baked plan, but they're kids so...okay.

Fred's having an episode! Medic!

Mr. Putnam is canvassing the area looking for the kids when he sees Beau and Christian park across the street. Anxious to let nothing spoil his bounty, he gets a weaselly look of mischief and runs over to their truck to slash their tires in broad daylight in a public street. Beau sees this happen, of course, and chases him back to his car with a shovel. Putnam screams the whole way about "this is my living! This is how I make money" while Beau smashes the crap out of his car. Beau goes postal, so angry he breaks the driver-side headlight twice. And all the while, really stupid hillbilly chase music is blaring. Putnam drives off, shouting back about how Beau has no class. I don't know, Puts, I don't think Boba Fett would stoop to slashing someone else's tires to collect a bounty. Okay, not tires. Hyperdrive...coolant...lines. He wouldn't slash those. Actually he'd probably just kill you. I don't know why I even brought Boba Fett up. Look, let's just forget it. I'm sorry. This is a really bad movie.

The kids have seemingly abandoned the bus strategy and have hitched a ride in the back of a livestock truck. Haley blabs on about how she knows these highways like the back of her hand because her dad is a trucker who makes a weekly route between Reno and Kansas City. She goes on about how her mom "packed it in" and that she was a showgirl. "Great legs," she muses. Whoa. Tell me more. "I got her legs," she shows them. "What do you think?" Ummmm...I think you're blowing their adolescent minds, girl. At that age I got a boner watching commercials for Murder...She Wrote.

Fred asks if she's sure that it's safe to hitch a ride with a pair of creepy cattle truckers. And you were so discriminating to stow away with a pastry truck driver. Haley says not to worry, she knows truckers and they have a Code. Isn't that the Code that includes complimentary blowjobs for any trucker who picks up a female hitchhiker? Uh oh...No sooner do I think of this than they pull over. Two filthy crackers get out of the truck and manhandle Haley to the ground. Dear god, there's a scene of pre-teen rape in this movie! This is the filthiest movie I've seen since Irreversible! What is this movie rated, anyway?

Actually they're just robbing Haley because they saw her counting well over $80 through the back window! They throw the kids out on their asses and leave them penniless on the side of the road. Fred tells Haley to jam that Trucker Code up her ass.

Beau Bridges has a shovel! Run!

Beau is at a mechanic's trying to get his tires changed, but all they have to offer are some whitewalls. Beau seems outraged by the notion that they would dare disgrace his beautiful truck with whitewalls. Beau, it's a POS Dodge pickup, not an Aston Martin. Christian busies himself playing Super Mario Bros. 2 on Fred's old NES that he found in the back of the truck and has hooked up to the mechanic's TV. Does this accomplish anything, movie? No? Didn't think so.

The kids manage to make it to the next down in the back of a light blue pickup driven by some Indians (feathers, not dots). They're still arguing about Haley and her bullshit Trucker Code. Haley demands the last four bucks Fred managed to stash in his shorts, saying she knows he kept a hidden wad of money the truckers never got to. I frigging hope the truckers never got in his shorts. I don't think I could watch this movie anymore if they had. They go into a restaurant, looking for someone to hustle. They're lucky enough to find a pair of elderly salesmen (??) playing an arcade game and manage to scam some easy money off them. First off, I've never seen anyone over the age of 30 play an arcade game, let alone 60. Second, said sixty-year-olds are not bound to be stupid enough to accept any kind of monetary wager at a video game contest with any kid under the age of ten. Hell, I'm 25 and even I know my reflexes are nothing compared to a kid Jimmy's age. The salesmen lose handily to Jimmy's awesome gaming technique and go off bemoaning their misfortune and wondering if they'll ever get to use the Glengarry leads.

With their newfound wealth (about fifty bucks) they visit a junkyard and crash for the night in the sleeper cabin of an abandoned big rig. Haley explains she learned all sorts of road-survival tricks from her dad. Fred asks if she ever gets scared being all by herself, and Haley insists crossly that she's never scared. Fred pulls on a Halloween mask and says "Never?" Haley responds with a right cross that knocks him the hell out. In one punch! Hah! You totally got beat up by a girl. And it's good to see the kids have been rationing out their money so responsibly, probably blowing half of it on that stupid rubber mask. Maybe that's why she decked him.

The next day Haley explains that they've got about $47 and she bought Jimmy a bunch of "Power Magazines" to teach him all the tips and tricks for the videogames they're bound to play in the national competition. A group of bikers pulls to a halt nearby. Haley gets a manic grin on her face. Guys, you're not seriously considering hitching a ride with the Hell's Angels, are you? Your ride with the truckers ended up with you bruised and abandoned, and now you're going to trust a group of leather-fetish bikers? The perky strains of bad synthesizer rock in the background can only mean that we're leading into an inexorably long...

It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A!

For about five minutes we have to endure "Send Me An Angel" while we watch the kids hitching rides and seeing the various roadside oddities of Utah (there are even fewer than you'd think). We also see Putnam harassing people and Beau Bridges jamming doughnuts in his mouth. Fascinating stuff. It's also interesting to see the kids hitching a ride with the same Indians in the blue pickup they left behind eariler in the movie. Continuity gaffe, or really scary stalker Indians? You decide.

Anyway, the kids continue to hustle rednecks for money at arcade games as they make their way across the state. I never knew there was such an untapped niche for arcade-hustlers. Haley declares that Jimmy is at "470,000 and climbing at F1 Dream!" Cool, only he's not playing F1 Dream; it's Top Speed. These particular arcade ruffians don't take kindly to losing and refuse to pay up. They're about to start a fight with the trio until the haggard old lady behind the counter chases them off shouting "It's them again! I got movie monsters! I got video monsters! I got graffiti-on-the-wall monsters! I hate this place!" Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Hey, I recognize that lady! It's the crazy lady who gets sucked under the bus in Speed! Awesome!

While Crazy Bus Lady wanders off raving about how she'd like to burn the building down, the movie manages to irrevocably date itself by having New Kids on the Block's "Hangin' Tough" blast away on the jukebox. Oh dear god I'd successfully buried all memory of that song until this very moment. I remember that my sister was one of the biggest New Kids fans in history, so I had to listen to that terrible music coming from her room all day long. I actually know the words to "Hangin' Tough," I realize with a sick certainty as The Wizard dredges up memories I wanted kept long-buried. In that moment, The Wizard has managed to snuff out just a little bit of the joy I took in life. Fucking New Kids.

"He's good," snarks a nearby youth, "but he'd never beat Lucas. Lucas is the best!"

Jimmy's honor is at stake, so Fred demands to know where this Lucas can be found at once. Then, in one of the most hilarious edits in movie history, the soundtrack plays an ominous piano note and cuts to this:

Corey Feldman?

This is how Lucas rolls. Seriously. A black jacket and Blues Brothers shades. Simply, utterly awesome. I don't remember, but I bet when I saw this as a kid I wished I could be just half as cool as this kid looks. Look at him. He just exudes cool, doesn't he? He knows he's the ultimate gamer-- talent on loan from God-- and he's living the life of a Utah maharajah, feasting on Ding-Dongs fed to him by scantily-clad gamer groupies who pray daily that just a whit of his talent might somehow osmose into them. Lucas is the fucking man. You know what? I still wish I was this guy. I could very well be gay for Lucas.

I think I just came in my pants a little.

A Kung-Fu riff accompanies Lucas' introduction, just so we know that this motherfucker is Zen cool and ninja-trained. He actually has groupies clustered at his feet patiently observing his every gesture and ready to leap to his slightest bidding. I have really got to practice more at Tekken so I can be like this guy. You think Fatality has fans like this? He fucking should. Lucas challenges Jimmy to choose any game he wants. He snaps his fingers and his lackey brandishes a travel case full of NES cartridges. He boasts that he has 97 of them and he's mastered them all. The gang look awestruck (and they damn well should) at Lucas' gaming prowess. I'm awestruck that he actually carries 97 NES carts with him. But I'm forgetting, he has groupies to haul his gaming shit for him. Of course!

Another kung-fu medley. Lucas cracks out an armored case with his name on it. He opens it to reveal a padded, velved-lined interior on top of which rests...the ultimate gaming peripheral. The Exaclibur of controllers. The mightiest weapon in any gamer's arsenal. The Power Glove. That's right, the Power Glove is not meant to be exposed to the elements. It must kept sealed away, lest untrained hands damage it or mishandle it. The devastation could be immense! It must be kept under lock and key at all times.

What? You don't know the Power Glove? Get the fuck out of my review this instant!

Oh all right, you can stay. But you'd better shape up and show Lucas some respect. The man wields the fucking Power Glove. Betta reccanize.

Ah yes, the Power Glove: hands-down the single coolest gaming accessory ever imagined. Just look at that advertisement to the right! It's got fucking lightning coming out of it! And he's going to play video games with sunglasses on! That's how absurdly brutally cool the Power Glove is. It's the right hand of Zeus, bitches. You don't control the Power Glove, you're just along for the ride. You get blown into another dimension when you use it. What kid saw this and didn't covet the Power Glove?

It would have been great if it had actually worked. I mean it didn't work. AT ALL. It was AWFUL. Sure it might have taken you to another dimension of gaming, if that dimension was full of ass and shit biscuits. It didn't even work with the games it was specifically designed for! It was so bad, I still get horror flashbacks when I think of how similar in theory it is to the Nintendo Wii's controller. What's funny is that it wasn't even the biggest bust of all of Nintendo's experimental gaming peripherals like R.O.B. the Robot or (worst of all) the Virtual Boy. I can only imagine how profoundly ripped-off kids must have felt unwrapping that hunk of plastic crap for Christmas and discovering it was a total waste of time and money. How nobody ended up facing fraud charges over this thing, I'll never know.


So Lucas having the Power Glove means one of two things: either he's so good that he can actually kick your ass using that piece of shit, or this is going to be a very humiliating defeat. Lucas stands perfectly still while his cronies put the Power Glove on his hand like squires putting plate mail armor on a champion knight headed to a jousting tourney. This is frigging hilarious. Lucas boots up Rad Racer on his and stands theatrically, gloved hand outstretched like a Jedi attempting to lift an X-Wing. He triumphs over the first level and turns around to face the trio, a look on his face so orgasmic it's evolved into a thousand-yard stare.

"I love the Power Glove," he tells them, sounding almost fearful of the power he controls with it. "It's so bad." And the legend of The Wizard is born. It's the dead seriousness of this line that really makes this scene immortal. This actor sells it like he's Hal Jordan gifted with this godlike artifact of immeasurable power, something to be feared and respected. He gives it the same battle-hardened, post-orgiastic tone as the classic "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" line from Apocalypse Now. Sheer, unadulterated, undiluted coolness.

Lucas must get sooooo much pussy. God I want to be him.

Fred seems to sense a shift in the alpha-male status of the group. He tells Lucas to keep his Power Gloves off of Haley, throwing a protective arm around her. Pfft, sorry Fred, you just lost out to the fucking Power Glove. You know no woman can resist the love of the glove. Fred tries to salvage his manhood by turning Jimmy loose on the game, but even Jimmy looks shaken to the core by the gaming just displayed by Lucas. He backs out the door. Fred and Haley try to follow, but Lucas seizes her by the arm and says that he's going to the championships too. Somehow Haley manages to resist Lucas' electrifying touch and saves her tender virginity for another day. Narrow escape, baby.

That night we see Beau and Christian holed up in a motel and sharing a twin-sized bed. Gaaaaaaay! Christian tries to take this time to bond with his dad, saying despite this bad situation he's glad he's here. He reminisces about all the road trips they used to take down to California. Beau isn't listening, and I'm beginning to see why he's divorced. Christian realizes he's in a gay underwear huddle with his dad, who's too cheap to spring for a room with a double bed, and goes to the truck to grab the NES. He puts it on top of the motel television and turns it on. Apparently this is enough to get it working, despite the fact that he never plugs it in to a wall outlet or hooks up the A/V cables to the TV. Beau whines that he has to get some sleep, but Christian is all "tough shit. If you can't be bothered to listen while I'm baring my soul, you're gonna have to sleep with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blasting all night."

Remember TMNT? I do. That game licked BALLS. Donatello was the only turtle worth using because he had the longest weapon. You only used Leonardo in a pinch because his was the second longest. Forget Michelangelo or Raphael, they were useless. And the game was frigging impossible to beat.

"Hey check it out! Free Bible!"

Anyway, morning rolls around and Christian wakes up to find Beau has been up all night playing Ninja Turtles. I do have to give Beau Bridges credit, this is the best "not really playing a video game" acting I've ever seen. I honestly compliment his sudden leaning to the side, sotto-voce hissing and cursing and sentence-fragment speech patterns. Good stuff, Beau! He's even got the subtle moaning and under-the-breath mumbling down.

Fred & Haley awake in an abandoned drive-in movie theater to find that Jimmy has run off. Gee, maybe running away with the autistic boy who goes off on fugues wasn't the best idea in the world. Luckily they find him nearby stacking popcorn boxes instead of splattered under the wheels of an 18-wheeler. Fred flips out on him, whining that he hasn't gotten any better mentally. Haley guesses that Jimmy might be jealous of her inclusion in the group, that maybe Fred's getting the wrong idea of their arrangement. Not a bad guess there. Their introspection is interrupted by the three hillbillies from the arcade driving straight at them in a truck! Wow, these guys are really serious about reclaiming the twenty bucks they lost. What, did they spend all night searching abandoned roadside attractions on the hunch they might be there? I guess it paid off! The three jump out, kick everyone's ass, and take the money back. They rip open Jimmy's lunchbox, the one thing Jimmy takes everywhere with him, only to find that it's full of photographs and drawings. Bad move! I bet Jimmy flies into a blind rage and wishes all these ruffians into the corn field!

Nah, actually they just take off. But it would have been cool if we'd seen just a couple psychic murders.

Fred explains that they're mementos of Jimmy's twin sister Jennifer, who drowned in the river a while back. The trauma sent Jimmy off the deep end. And that's the light part of the story. Fred Savage is asked to recount his family's tangled history of half-brothers, second-marriages, and shared blame circles. For a kid his age, this level of dialogue is pretty impressive. Hell, it's so complex it's making my eyes glaze over. Long story short: sister dead, brother crazy for Cocoa Puffs.

Fred finally decides that Jimmy's earned his section-8 out of this movie and goes to find a phone to call his dad. Haley says that his attitude sucks and that she doesn't even want him to like her anymore. Hmph! Fine! They walk their separate directions. Jimmy finally gets to say a line that isn't "Califoooornia." He says "I don't wanna quit." And the quest continues!

Elsewhere, Putnam continues to follow the string of arcades and brokenhearted gamers Jimmy leaves in his wake. Unfortunately he's so much of an assclown that none of the other kids will talk to him so he's confounded at every turn. Here's a tip, Putnam, offer them five bucks. At that age I'd have sold out my own mother for five dollars. He goes out to his car just as Beau happens by in his truck. Beau flies into a rage at the sight of him and guns his truck, aiming straight for Putnam's car!! Holy shit, he's gonna murder this guy! He smashes his truck right into the back half of Putnam's car, then he looks back, throws the car into reverse, and rams him again! Hillbilly chase music kicks into high gear! Haw haw! Attempted vehicular homicide is hilarious! Beau swings the truck around again and goes for a third pass-- this time, the deathblow! The cars collide, but this time the truck is disabled from the head-on collision. Putnam speeds off in his ruined car, vowing revenge.

"You chickenshit!" Beau screams. Chickenshit? In a PG movie? Wow. Reminds me that Raiders of the Lost Ark was rated PG. Can you believe that? Watch that movie again and you'll see some scary stuff there! Melting Nazis was PG!

There should be a spinoff movie of The Wizard called Spanky's Quest. I didn't get enough Spanky.

The kids hitch to Reno-- why do none of these drivers ever stop to at least question three unaccompanied children?-- where Haley outlines the plan. She says they have to train Jimmy in a hurry, and to do that they'll need some serious bankroll. So she knows a trucker friend of her dad's named Spanky (I got a BAD feeling about this) who can help. They find Spanky (played by an exuberant and unexpectedly welcome Frank McRae-- "YOUR PANTS WILL BE DANCING WITH FIGS!!") in a casino placing bets on the craps table. Haley calls for his attention and screams out perfect advice on what to bet. She's phenomenal: she even calls for hard-eights and gets them. Why are they even bothering with the gaming tournament? If Haley's half as good as she's demonstrated in these six rolls they could work out a winning system with Spanky right here and be rolling in cash before the evening is out. Since when did Haley become a psychic gambler? Sheesh!

The casino throws the lot of them out-- and a good thing, too. Much more time in there and Haley would have cleaned out that whole place. Spanky notes that he's won $400, money that Haley promptly swipes, handing him ten bucks as a courtesy. Dude, that's cold. Show Spanky a little more love than that. After all, he fronted your little gambling scheme. At least cut him in for a percentage of the tournament winnings. You can't just leave Spanky alone in Reno with $10, he'll get torn apart!

Jimmy's training begins. Haley calls the Nintendo Game Play Hotline (which at the time was an expensive 1-900 number you could call for tips and cheat codes on various games and here, a transparent commercial for the service) to keep Jimmy fed with the latest info. Haley suggests that they start with hints for Simon's Quest, even though Castlevania 2 was never an arcade game and certainly not a game that can be played competitively. It's basically a non-linear RPG. Corey starts shredding the arcade games like a demon, tearing through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the NES port was never put in an arcade), Mega Man (nor this one), Metroid (nope), Contra (nuh uh), Super Mario Bros. 2 (wrong again) and many others. We can see Haley and Fred working overtime quizzing the Nintendo Hotline guy over every game Nintendo's ever made, making him drag out piles of 3-ring binders which soon bury the top-layer strata of Chips Ahoy boxes he had there previously.

Putnam is in a phone booth calling The American Fucko when (surprise, surprise) Beau and Christian coincidentally pull up to the same truck stop. They don't see Putnam on their way inside to eat, so Puts pays a nearby tow truck driver $50 to work a little mischief. Inside, Christian sees one of the hillbilly ruffians wearing Fred's hat and interrogates him as to where he got it. "I got it from a moron," the kid says. That's a good way to get your fingers broken. Beau hauls the kid to his feet to issue him a Grade-A ass-kicking when Lucas speaks up, showing them an ad for the championships in L.A.. They go outside only to find their precious truck being towed away. Oh, that Putnam! He's done it again!

The next day, the Terrible Trio are discussing their status. Jimmy still needs to work on 24 of the 97 games Lucas has mastered in one day. Fred thinks that's an excellent strategy and contributes to the proceedings by donning a pair of big-nose Groucho glasses. Haley thinks he's an idiot.

Beau and Christian make it to the tow truck place where an apologetic manager tells them that the truck looked like a wreck so they stripped it for parts. The truck is officially dead. Long live the truck.

Putnam reaches Reno and sets about quizzing the locals. Along the way we finally get some nudity out of this movie! At last! Some hot upskirt action! Hot mama!

AAAAAHHHH!! OLD MAN IN SPEEDO! MY EYES!!

Dear lord in heaven! First I see a chick's underwear and then some flabby old man in a Speedo?! Turn it off! Stop it at once! I would pay any amount of money if they would take him off the screen! AUUUUGH! Oh GOD his geriatric package MOCKS me! Eeeewww and he's perfectly hairless, too! Someone shaved this old man's bikini zone!! I think I'm gonna throw up all over myself! This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen in any movie ever!! I need to rinse my fucking eyes out with Drano now...

Putnam asks a waitress if she's seen his "son" or either of the kids he's been hanging out with, when he turns around and literally runs into Fred. "I got him!! I got him!!" he shrieks. Then he grabs Fred and shakes him by the shoulders, howling "Where is he?? I been chasing you across two states. I'm being paid to bring your brainless brother back, now point him out!!" Then, hilariously, the waitress who just heard him say this tells Putnam that she saw Jimmy in the arcade. He hoots in triumph and runs to the arcade to capture Jimmy. Fred calls Haley over and they chase Putnam into the arcade just as he shoulders one man aside and picks Jimmy up. Thinking fast, Haley points and belts out one of those shrill, glass-shattering screams only girls can do. "AIIIIIEEEE!!! He touched my breast!!"

No kidding, I actually spewed my drink.

HAHAHAHA! Child molestation humor! Putnam looks utterly busted, too. And it really doesn't help that he's grabbing Jimmy by the jimmy just as the cops converge on him. I had to stop the movie for a few minutes until I stopped laughing. I'm going to just start yelling that at people from now on. It's that classic. I like that line better than the Power Glove bit.

Beau & Christian are still stuck in the boonies working on their transportation problems. Well Christian is working on it. Dad is busy in the office playing the Adventures of Link. Christian yanks the controller out of the console which surprisingly causes the entire system to crash. I used to yank my brother's controller out of the console all the time as a joke and it never shut the NES down. Beau whines that he'd "just beaten the river devil" and "I had the magic key and the cross, and I was about to get to the barbarian!" Christian's too nice to tell him that most of those things aren't actually in that game. Aw that kooky, un-hip old man! See how addictive Nintendo is, kids? It makes even your square of a dad into a super-cool gamin' machine! So pester your folks for Nintendo constantly! Wii Wii Wii!

Haley helps the group to retreat to her home which turns out to be some crappy trailer in the desert. She tells Fred not to rub it in that she's white trash and that she learned how to play craps from her gambling-addicted mom. She says something about hoping to really make it someday so she can afford a great house and get her estranged family back together. Um, I don't care about this lame back-story, can I be excused? I just want to see people playing Metroid and shit.

Putnam will never find us now!

Fred says her problem is a lot like The Legend of Zelda-- more specifically, the Adventures of Link. You see, Link has to find Zelda, Haley has to find a house! It's a perfect simile! Haley says that's pretty sexist. No, it's just all-around bad. Haley is not a nymph-like being with a magic sword, is female, and her house has not been kidnapped by an evil warlord named Ganon. Well maybe it has, but I very much doubt it. Fred tries to imply that the whole thing is terribly romantic and leans in for a kiss. Haley pie-faces him violently back onto the chaise lounge and says there's no way she's kissing a boy.

Fred gets a hopeful look in his eye, "a girl, maybe?"

YES!! FOR GOD'S SAKE, YES!! Please oh please oh please let her be a lesbian...

Haley is gravely offended by the accusation and plants a kiss on him just to prove she's not a rug-muncher. Damn it!

Putnam somehow gets out of jail and calls information in an attempt to find where Haley lives. He asks for the addresses of all the "Brooks" in Reno. Ugh, this could take all night. Especially since Haley lives in a mobile home with no mailbox and her address is probably 1 East Rat's Ass, Nevada, just south of the landfill. Putnam invades the mobile home and abducts Jimmy again. He tosses the poor kid screaming into the back of his car and speeds off! Booooooo!

Haley asks Fred if he thinks Jimmy really stood a chance in the competition. Fred says he's the best he's ever seen, even better than Lucas. What? NOBODY'S better than Lucas! Lucas studies Cobra-Kai karate! Anyway, Haley says she's got friends who can help them out and runs inside the home. Putnam speeds down the interstate cackling like a weasel until he sees the roadway blocked by big-rigs! He's forced to stop and two more trucks move in to close the trap! Haley's called in her army of loyal truckers to kill Putnam! Spanky climbs out, a tower of rage. He points an accusing finger at Putnam and says "So YOU touched her BREAST, huh?"

Putnam is a DEAD MAN!

Spanky agrees to drive the kids to L.A.. This scene is horrifying to watch, because Spanky spends the whole time violently yanking the wheel from side to side in a way that would make any other truck jackknife and spell certain doom for everyone inside. Haley asks him to drive faster, but Spanky says he's already stolen this rig, he doesn't want to get a speeding ticket, too! Because that would mean big trouble on top of a grand theft auto charge...

Anyway, the group makes it to Universal Studios, home of the Video Armageddon Championships! They scurry up the front stairs where a pair of garishly-dressed, very weird receptionists are taking registrations. They're wearing hazard-orange jumpsuits. One of them is doing his best to over-act in ways that would make Al Pacino cringe, even with relatively simple line deliveries like "What's your name? Woods? WOO-OO-OO-DS!" Haley asks what the first game is, and the receptionist says "What gaaaaame? Nin-JA GAI-DEN! Pin this to his back and hustle it on in there! You're late! MOVE IT MOVE IT MOVE IT!" What an eccentric performance.

Inside is a technological madhouse full of oddly-dressed referees and convention attendants. The stage is atop a long and dangeously-decorated rampway with about a dozen Nintendo systems arranged in a row. The group enters just in time to see Lucas kick everyone's ass at Ninja Gaiden, and he's doing it old school without the Power Glove! Lucas comes down, basking in his victory and welcomes Jimmy to the competition. "I brought my friends too," he says, "I wanted to show them...perfection." He's not gloating or putting on airs, mind you. He's simply stating the truth. He really does believe this. God, I love this character.

I hear there's an alternate ending to The Wizard where Slater bombs the entire building and kills everyone.
It's a little darker.

The announcer is a harsh-voiced pederast who immediately manage to scare me with his over the top, slimy delivery. "Come up here, my little beauties," he croons, "bring your little behinds to me!" Just...fucking...eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwww. Jimmy, stay far, far away from that man! Haley and Fred wish Jimmy luck and send him up the ramp for the last qualifying round.

We can see Putnam stalking around outside with music that sounds like he's the goddamn Terminator. Wait...maybe he is...

Time expires and Jimmy puts his controller down to await the scores. Interesting that the television screen behind him still shows the ninja flipping around making attacks. It's almost as if the televisions were just looping a video... the announcer...announces the three finalists are Lucas, Jimmy, and some nerdy anonymous girl with pigtails named Moira. The announcer seems to sense that his voice is a gravelly, horrible shambles and desperately works to loosen his collar as he tells the crowd that the final round should be a real barn-burner because they're going to play a game that they've never played before! This news strikes Haley as terribly unfair because they haven't managed to prepare in advance. I don't see why she's so worried; everyone's on the same footing and Jimmy's proven that he's absurdly fast on the up-take. Should be no problem. But of course, there is Lucas...

The American Fucko and Christine confront Putnam on the Universal lot and ask where the hell he's been and why he hasn't been able to bring Jimmy back. Putnam says he's had a bitch of a time, but he knows exactly where Jimmy is, pointing to the convention building. Lucas comes outside, looking like he's really sweating the finals against Jimmy. He spots Putnam and points Jimmy out, hoping to eliminate him from the finals! Yeah! That's why Lucas is the man: he's working every angle. All is fair in love and Ninja Gaiden, baby. The kids flee onto the Universal Tour Tram and elude capture. The American Fucko shrugs and stuffs his face with carnival food. The tram operator starts announcing the recent movies, including Mayhem in Monte Carlo staring Zsa Zsa Gabor and Pee Wee Herman in the romantic leads. I would so watch that movie.

Putnam jumps on to the tram, chasing them through the crowd to the front. Beau & Christian give chase on foot, but the tram disappears into the studios behind closed doors. The kids jump off near the King Kong "exhibit". Putnam gets off the tram after decking Beau in the face and causing general carnage on the tram. The tour guide starts screaming on the microphone "Have fun! HAVE FUN, DAMN IT!!" The kids run around the set dodging gouts of flame that never come close to them while Putnam stalks them looking for all the world like the T-1000 come to stab him in the eyeball. It doesn't help that the music is this intense slasher theme instead of some kind of light-hearted chase music we've grown accustomed to. What, no goofy hillbilly chase music? It sounds like Putnam has finally had enough after the truckers finished beating the shit out of him and he spend a night in lockup for child molestation. Look out, kids!


Oh, and HAVE FUN, DAMN IT!!

The kids realize that they're out of time and the final round is about to start. They find themselves looking down at the stage from high above. The announcer is having kittens because Jimmy's not there and a female voice says that the finals will begin in two minutes, even though the large countdown clock to the right of the screen says 58 seconds. The announcer calls out Lucas' name, and of course he has a huge fan following. He's a fucking legend!

The kids find a stage elevator and arrive just in time, leaving Putnam in their dust. The clock expires and the announcer presents VIDEO ARMAGEDDON! Huge doors open up revealing a really overblown and over-produced set consisting of three gaming consoles with the NES Advantage joystick as their centerpiece and ten-foot big screen TVs for each contestant. Plus, the whole thing is very sci-fi with lots of grilles and klaxons and strobing lights. Hissing hydraulics and steam vents, you know the drill. Lucas looks pissed that Jimmy made it, but it's all right. He'll kick Jimmy's ass au natural.

The announcer commands the viewscreens to activate and presents...SUPER MARIO BROTHERS...3!!! And let me tell you, seeing SMB3 for the first time in this movie was just about the coolest thing ever. Not only was it one of the best NES games ever made, it was one of the most successfully-hyped. Exhibit A: The Wizard. I'm not entirely sure how you can play Mario 3 competitively, but there were few things I wanted more than a chance to play Mario with a spinning raccoon tail. The Nintendo products at this time may have been shitburgers, but there has never been better marketing for any video game product than this.

Big gaming competition time! You know what THAT means!

INCREDIBLY LONG MONTAAAAAAAAGE!!!

Lots and lots of watching people play Mario, and even more watching people watching people play Mario. The various divorced parents hook up and band together to cheer Jimmy on while Lucas growls in rage at how well his opponents are doing. Fred repeatedly shouts for Jimmy to find a "warp," saying if he finds it he can really leap ahead in points. How does Fred even know that this game has warps or expect Jimmy to find one if there are? Nobody's played this game before. It's like trying to just discover the Konami Code by accident. Be realistic, Fred.

Jimmy jumps out ahead on points but stumbles at the 7-minute mark when he catches a Boomerang and loses a life. The announcer says that he'll have to start World 2 over again, even though the screen still says he's on World 1. Level 4, I think. Lucas digs himself further in the hole by taking a goomba to the face, losing even more points. But the day is saved when Jimmy grabs the raccoon hat and somehow discovers the magic flute hidden in the castle which opens the secret warp zone to World 4! Hoorah! Tons of extra points there! There's tons of intense music, too, complete with an animated graphic of three running knights keeping track of their score so we have a visual representation of how badly Lucas gets crushed in the final score.

And just like that, Jimmy wins the competition! No way! NO WAY! How the hell did Jimmy know about that warp point? Cheater! Cheater, I say! I smell hax! Lucas was robbed! I demand a full investigation! This contest is rigged!

Ugh, I'm so disgusted with how crooked the Nintendo finals were I can barely stand to recap the rest of this movie. Everyone drives home, but along the way Jimmy sees some kind of roadside attraction with huge dinosaurs and starts hollering, you guessed it, "Califooooornia!" Everyone pulls over to appease Jimmy because, after all he did just win $50,000. Jimmy dashes out of the car and goes inside the dinosaur museum. They find Jimmy sitting alone in the dinosaur gazing at his lunchbox o' memories. Fred realizes from the photos that this is the last place they were all together and happy, and he just wanted to say goodbye to his sister here. Awwww...see? This is sweet. I'm all misty-eyed, here, you guys...Nintendo has brought this family together and here I've been, a total ass, making fun of this movie.

Urgh...what's this feeling? It's some kind of...warm, fuzzy feeling. Killing the snarkiness inside of me. No! I need my bitterness! I need my rage! It's what gives me power! I just...I just...It's all so beautiful. I love you guys! From now on, that's it. I'm going to focus on the positive. People worked really hard on these movies, and they deserve my respect. I shouldn't just bash movies because I'm frustrated at my own inadequacies. From now on I'm turning over a new leaf, bringing love and laughter to my reviews. No more ranting for me!

HEY! Haley just gave Jimmy a kiss. What a fucking whore.

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