Cinema Showdown! Rain Man versus The Wizard
I watched Rain Man for the first time recently, with its story of slow realization to the importance of family by Tom Cruise’s emotionally backwards character, Charlie Babbit. Then it hit me and I realized I had seen this movie before. Not Rain Man, but a movie I had re-watched that same month, The Wizard. Not to be confused with Wizards – the amazingly animated tour de force by Ralph Bakshi – The Wizard was the feel-good movie of the 1989 Christmas season starring Fred Savage that also happens to be a feature length commercial for Nintendo’s release of Super Mario Bros. 3 and the Power Glove.
One of the main similarities both films share are the main characters taking advantage of their savant-syndrome brothers for financial gain. Both movies feature breaking siblings out of various institutions, dead family members, a trio experiencing the great American road trip, distractions along the way and (of course) gambling! Rain Man came out in December of 1988, almost exactly a year before The Wizard. So if we were going to accuse anyone of ripping anyone off it would have to be The Wizard, but I’m not here to point fingers.
The similarities don’t just stop in the film, check out the movie posters side-by-side. These posters both have the main cast walking down a road with their travel bags. Though they left out the girl on the Rain Man poster, much like Winston on the Ghostbusters 2 DVD cover I own. With it being the 80s one of them is wearing shades so we can know that they are cool as hell, though I think Raymond should be the one wearing the shades in the Rain Man poster. “Yeah, Rayban, definitely Rayban.”
While Rain Man does have Dustin Hoffman, a then maybe-not-as-crazy Tom Cruise, and Valeria Golino (she was also in Big Top Pee-wee), The Wizard has Jenny Lewis and the aforementioned Fred Savage. Did you know that tomboy Lewis grew up to be an indie rock singer/songwriter babe (you can check out one of her music videos on YouTube)?! There is also an uncredited cameo by a very young Tobey Maguire who plays one of Lucas’ cronies.
I suppose the lesson here is that we can’t encourage kids to play Blackjack… but we can have them run away from home, hitchhike, ride motorcycles with ruffians, shark older kids betting on video game scores to raise money, and enter into video game competitions all without parental supervision. Sounds like a romp-roarin’ good time to me, not unlike seeing Tom Cruise’s character going mad from his brother’s idiosyncrasies! I guess the question remains, which one is more deplorable/awesome: putting your traumatized, mute, video game score-racking younger brother into a competition or going on a card-counting extravaganza with your heir inheriting older brother who hasn’t experienced life? You decide.