By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Kids' adventure tale filled with danger and a bit of heart.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This movie is a kid's fantasy of independence in the face of incompentant and careless adults. The relationship between the kids is positive and compassionate, though the scenarios throughout the movie are greatly exaggerated, and full of don't-try-this-at-home scenarios like kids hitchhiking across several states.
Positive Role Models
Parents and other adults are portrayed as volatile, ignorant, and irresponsible, though they do learn some lessons by the film's end. The heroic young characters are well-intentioned and resourceful, but as they hitchhike from Utah to California with a small boy in tow, they make a lot of iffy decisions and continually put themselves in harm's way.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of cartoon action with no serious injuries. Three children are physically threatened, a gang of street toughs rough them up, and a bounty hunter captures them several times only to have them escape. They also maneuver on foot through a fiery King Kong exhibit on the Universal Studios tour. In addition, the adult characters engage in moderate action throughout, including: car chases, brief scuffles and fist fights, a man wielding a small knife, and cars used as weapons to disable other vehicles.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A young girl shouts "He touched my breasts!" to get out of a difficult situation. The declaration is repeated. A pre-teen couple share a brief kiss.
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Occasional swearing: "hell," "damn," "butthead," "son-of-a-bitch," "ass," "s--t," and "bitch." Insults directed at the mentally-challenged little boy: "mutant," "moron," "mental case," "brainless," "space case," "freak," and "maniac."
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Products & Purchases
Kids either mention or play numerous popular video games of the era throughout, including Super Mario Bros 3. Other products featured: Pepsi, Bud Lite, Michelob, Sinclair Oil, Hostess Cupcakes, WonderBread, AC Auto Parts, and more. A lengthy sequence takes place on the Universal Studios Tour and Amusement Park.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A father reprimands his teen son for drinking, but the boy is never shown on camera consuming alcoholic beverages. One elderly man is seen drinking a beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that a primary story element in the 1989 movie The Wizard is a little boy's mental disability (we would now call it post-traumatic stress disorder), which is sometimes treated unkindly. Several characters call him names ("mutant," "moron," "freak," "mental case," and more), his parents consider putting him in an institution, while others are protective of him. The film's plentiful action is mainly cartoonish, and while there are no serious injuries or deaths, there are fist fights, car crashes, a chase on a tram, numerous escapes from captivity, and many scuffles. Expect some cursing (i.e."ass," "s--t," "butthead," "son-of-a-bitch") and product placement.
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Where to Watch
Based on 3 parent reviews
Fun, but lots of language, peril, and insulting a character with a mental disability
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It's A Good Movie But I Would Not Recommend This A Family Friendly Movie
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What's the Story?
Fred Savage, at his most appealing, plays Corey Woods, a loving young teen trying to save Jimmy, his mentally-challenged younger brother, from life in an institution. The two set off from Utah to California with only a few dollars and a skateboard. On their way they meet a street-savvy girl who joins their flight. When the older kids discover that Jimmy is a true "wizard" at video games and hear about a tournament for gamers with a grand prize of $50,000, their quest intensifies. Back home in Utah, various members of their very dysfunctional family (including Beau Bridges and Christian Slater) and a bumbling detective take off after them. The journey is filled with danger, unpredictability, some good folks and some bad, culminating in a final showdown for Jimmy and his proud pals.
Is It Any Good?
This film will evoke some comforting nostalgia for parents who played video games when they were kids. The structure of THE WIZARD is much like these old games: Three kids move from one level to another on their way to a big score, meeting an assemblage of opponents of various degrees of danger, all the while being chased by not-so-worthy adversaries who slip and fall and crowd one another off the screen. The resolution is hokey and contrived; the characters are thin and hit the same notes over and over again. The final gaming tournament is abrasively loud and lacking in any suspense. Still, the gifted Fred Savage manages to add heart to an otherwise dismissable movie.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about children with special needs. How are disabled kids portrayed in TV and movies? Have you seen any changes to these portrayals in the last few years? Are you aware of your own behavior around children with disabilities? How do you imagine they would like to be treated?
Corey and Jimmy thought running away was the answer to their problems. What other options did they have? What do you do when you have important issues to deal with in your family?
Video games have changed a lot since 1989 when this movie was made. Do you think the violence is more explicit today? Do you think this evolution is a good thing? Were the old games enjoyable without the "realistic" action?
- In theaters: December 15, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: August 22, 2006
- Cast: Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Fred Savage
- Director: Todd Holland
- Studio: Universal Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: adult situations and language
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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