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'The Wizard' : (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 15, 1989

"The Wizard" is nothing but a commercial for Nintendo games, except when it's plugging Universal Studios' own theme parks. Hollywood hucksters, zap them, have borrowed from Japanese game-pushers in this shameless attempt to sucker America's children.

If there were any talent behind the project, as with "Back to the Future Part II," they would succeed. In his feature movie debut, bumbler Todd Holland directs from an inane screenplay by producer David Chisholm, a force behind TV's "The Wonder Years." Fred Savage, star of that series, has a leading role here as Corey, a 13-year-old who runs away to California with Jimmy (Luke Edwards), his younger half-brother. Jimmy is virtually autistic, except that he is a wiz at video games. En route, they take up with snarly Haley (Jenny Lewis), a trucker's daughter, who helps them build a grubstake at Reno's crap tables.

Sound familiar? Yes, it's "Rain Man" for small puddles. Only there's no chemistry between the child actors, who are chased about the desert by adult actors -- Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Wendy Phillips and Sam McMurray, as the alienated father, angry older brother, whimpery mother and a child bounty hunter. The performances, which seem inspired by the desire to pay off the BMWs, are every bit as lamentable as the project overall.

"The Wizard" is not only tacky and moribund, but it teaches gambling and bad sportsmanship. There's even a teen casino with a tarted-up cigarette girl (candy only), and if the mercenary Haley had offered to turn a trick to buy them all bus tickets to L.A., it wouldn't have been the least bit surprising.

The Wizard is rated PG-13.

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