Which 1980s Film Was Criticized As Being A Feature Length Commercial?
Answer: The Wizard
The Wizard was a 1989 film focused on the lives of three children: Jimmy (an autistic boy played by Luke Edwards), 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 hitch hike 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 heart warming one, but that didn’t stop critics at the time from panning the film as an extended commercial. Roger Ebert called it “a cynical exploitation film with lots of commercial plugs”. How many commercial plugs? 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 seventeen Nintendo video games including: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Contra, Double Dragon, Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Rad Racer, Super Mario Bros. 2 & 3, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link; it was a veritable who’s-who of popular Nintendo titles.
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 critics and parents viewed the film as little more than a Nintendo commercial.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.