The Wizard

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Wizard Movie Poster Image
Kids' adventure tale filled with danger and a bit of heart.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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.


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."


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byShonshay December 28, 2020

All reviews are retarded

Don’t pay any attention to the 16 plus sign fine movie for ten and up
Adult Written byspencerh January 21, 2019

Fun, but lots of language, peril, and insulting a character with a mental disability

This movie got bad reviews upon release but is now a cult classic, so my expectations watching it were mixed. It was a pretty fun movie, with heart and charm, t... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byNonsensical_Reviews February 4, 2021

Iffy film for kids has cursing, innuendo, and mild violence.

The Wizard is a 1989 sci-fi movie directed by Todd Holland and starring Fred Savage, Wendy Phillips, Jenny Lewis, Christian Slater, Sam McMurray, and Beau Bridg... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMike2223 July 29, 2013

Has Cussing and Rated PG-13.

Now this Movie came Out in 1989. Like Back to the Future Part 2. & it's About Nintendo Games and Universal and This Has a Few Cussing In It I Mean... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

Themes & Topics

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