Fred Savage, star of TV's "The Wonder Years" (he was also the sick young boy in the framing device for "The Princess Bride"), gets top billing in "The Wizard," a very odd combination of "Rain Man," "Tommy" and a lengthy commercial for Nintendo video games.
Savage and his older brother, Christian Slater, live with their father, Beau Bridges. But their troubled young half-brother, Luke Edwards, lives with their mother, who has married a first-class dweeb.
It seems Edwards has hardly spoken a word since the tragic death of his twin sister, but for some reason he keeps running away, heading for California.
So one day Savage decides to kidnap Edwards and find out where it is exactly that he wants to go and why. Along the way they pick up an older girl who helps them out, and they discover that Edwards has a natural talent for Nintendo games.
Coincidentally, there is a national Nintendo video game championship in a few days at the Universal Studios Tour theme park in Los Angeles. So they decide to get Edwards there in time to enter him.
Along the way they are chased by a wimpy "child-finder" hired by their mother and who provides a comic subplot by continually running into Bridges and Slater. They also stop off in Reno to make some money at the gambling tables, courtesy of an adult friend.
All in all this is inoffensive, if silly stuff except for the film's blatant commercialism. This Universal film not only plugs its own Universal Studio Tour theme park in the film's extended climax, but it often seems like an extremely long Nintendo ad.
Granted, Nintendo has cornered the video game market, and all the kids in the audience seemed to know each game as it appeared on the screen, but why pander to that Saturday morning commercial television sensibility?
The performances here are enjoyable for the most part, especially from the kids, though some of the adults seem a bit forced in their exaggerated stereotypical roles.
Obviously this is for kids. But "The Wizard" partially set in Utah but not filmed here is a movie to send them to, not take them to.
It is rated PG for violence and profanity.
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