Wizards Of Waverly Place: The Movie
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Wizards Of Waverly Place: The Movie

One of the big fads right now is the supernatural. From vampires and werewolves to witches and wizards magic reigns supreme both in the Cineplex and the cable networks. One studio has never been one to lag behind especially when it comes to family oriented entertainment, the Walt Disney studios. One of the current television series that is at the forefront of the studio’s programming lineup is the very successful ‘Wizards of Waverley Place’. Not only is this one of their more popular series it is on the cusp ready to step up and replace ‘Hannah Montana’ as the Disney tween flagship. It is only natural the young stars begin to grow up and their young fans begin to look elsewhere for their idols. Just in case the current Tween Queen Miley Cyrus move on as she starts to move up to movies the studio has been training Selena Gomez as her heir apparent. In typically Disney fashion they brought back one of the best aspects of the old Hollywood studio system that reigned supreme in the forties. Young stars where carefully train in music, dance, drama and comedy. Usually they would be given small roles gradually moving up to bigger roles and eventually their own features customized to their strengths. Ms Gomez may just be around 16 but she has already begun to pay her dues appearing in Disney series including ‘Hannah Montana’. Her own series, ‘Wizards’, is an extremely well constructed with a presentation that is engaging for the entire family, adults included. Now the young Ms Gomez has been provided with the next planned opportunity required in the career of a new Disney Princess, the made for cable movie length version of her TV series. Sure this flick is basically an extended episode but it does remain fairly true to the previously established character back stories and elaborates on the fundamental premise of the series.

The writer of the screenplay, Daniel Berendsen, is no stranger when it comes to teenage girls with magical powers. He penned some dozen scripts for ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’. He is also extremely familiar with the very specific requirements of Disney screenplays with his work on another teen witch motif, ‘Twitches’ as well as ‘Camp Rock’ and the ‘Hannah Montana Movie’. You might think that writing suck light hearted stories would be an easy job but it would require a very special form of talent that Mr. Berendsen possesses is great quantity. This movie is indicative of his ability to weave a story that is whimsical enough for the younger set but also engaging for the primary demographic tween girls and able to entertain the adults, that is a lot to expect from a made for TV flicks but Berendsen delivers it exceptionally well. In this instance there is a contrast between the inherent silliness of the magic with a fairly realistic portrayal of the angst and emotional turmoil of a girl in her mid teens.

Helping this lot is the director, Lev L. Spiro. He has work on a broad range of television series directing everything from ‘Everyone hates Chris’ to ‘ Arli$$’. This gamut of targeted ranges in age groups seems to have benefited him in his direction here by giving him the required insight necessary to present each aspect of the story here properly. The entire tale revolves around something that is all too familiar in millions of homes. As a daughter grows up her relationship with her mother naturally change. Thus is extremely evident in the Russo household as middle child Alex (Selena Gomez) is growing increasingly resentful of her mother Theresa (Maria Canals-Barrera)’s restrictive authority and endless rules. While on a family vacation in the Caribbean Alex makes a little discovery. Her older brother Justin (David Henrie) has been practicing with the family spell book and the fully empowered family wand. Soon Justin, Alex and their younger brother Max (Jake T. Austin) will have to compete against each other to determine which of the can keep their powers. According to the wizard bylaws only one sibling can retain their powers as an adult. The other children of the generation must go back to being mortal. Years ago their father Jerry (David DeLuise) won his competition but gave up the powers in order to marry Theresa, a mortal. Now the family has returned to the island resort where they met. After being grounded by her mother preventing her from seeing s boy she just met, Alex flies into a fit of rage wishing her parents had never met. It is a dramatic moment that has played out through history only Alex was too close/ to the magic wand and book and her wish is granted. Not only do her parents not recognize her and her brothers they can’t remember each other. At first Jerry and Theresa don’t even like each other. Now Alex has to put aside her sibling rivalry and get their parent together so they can be born. The solution lies in a fabled magical talisman; the Stone of dreams which can reverse any spell. Also looking for the gem is untalented street magician, Archie ((Steve Valentine) who lacks real power after losing his family competition. He needs to get the stone in order to break the spell that keeps his girlfriend in the form of a parrot. The conclusion has Alex and Justin squaring off to see who will stay the current family wizard with somewhat predictable results.

The movie is fast paced and edited so as to interject the necessary exposition in such a fashion as to not drag down the timing. The DVD release is an extended version but I am not well versed enough with the original televised edition to note the differences, this is actually something the entire family can enjoy together.

Posted 12/19/09

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