When The Wizard hit theaters shortly before Christmas in 1989, it was marketed as a legitimate motion picture, complete with stars like Fred Savage, Christian Slater, Jenny Lewis and Beau Bridges. But in reality, the whole thing was essentially a 96-minute commercial for Nintendo. They passed out free mini-issues of Nintendo Power at early screenings, and the movie featured countless NES Games. During a climactic scene, there’s even footage of Super Mario Brothers 3 two months before it landed on American shelves.
Needless to say, the critics tore it to shreds. “It is so insanely overwritten and ineptly directed,” wrote Roger Ebert in a scathing one-star review, “that it will disappoint just about everybody.” He wasn’t entirely correct on that last point. Young Nintendo fans were enthralled by the story of an emotionally damaged young boy with Tommy-like video game abilities (future Little Big League star Luke Edwards) who travels to a Nintendo tournament with his brother (Fred Savage) and a streetwise girl they meet along the way, played by Jenny Lewis.
Perhaps the most memorable scene comes about halfway through the movie, when our heroes encounter another Nintendo ace named Lucas Barton, a slightly older kid who dresses like Poochie and has his own entourage. Up until this point, nobody has posed any sort of threat to the Wizard, but even he seems a little intimated when Lucas reveals he has mastered 97 Nintendo games. He grows more concerned when one of Barton’s minions breaks out a monogramed, stainless steel briefcase containing a mysterious new object known as the Power Glove.
This was the moment when kids all over the country began freaking out. Rumors about such a product had circulated, but it was almost impossible to find. It became even harder once Lucas strapped it on and proceeded to annihilate Rad Racer by just moving his arm back and forth. “I love the power glove,” he tells our heroes. “It’s so bad.”
He was using “bad” to mean “good,” but he was literally correct. The power glove was really, really bad. Despite looking incredibly cool and making all your neighbors jealous, the thing barely worked. A couple of crappy Power Glove-specific games were manufactured, but trying to use it for any regular game was an exercise in futility. It was the Ford Pinto of the original Nintendo era.
Jenny Lewis has moved far away from her child actress days, but her amazing new video for “She’s Not Me” features amazing callbacks to Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard. Fred Armisen dresses up exactly like Fred Savage in the movie and wears a vintage Power Glove. Not long ago, we thought it might be fun to track down the actor that played Lucas, bring a Power Glove to his house and have him attempt to use it on Rad Racer. He could then tell the world that the device is actually really, really bad. We had images in our minds of a split-screen where his 1989 self used it flawlessly while his current day self struggled to make it do anything, but once we did some research into the guy we realized maybe this wasn’t the best idea.