Ever since premiering on the Disney Channel, “Wizards of Waverly Place” has faired well alongside other Disney favorites such as “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life” series. Starring another Disney up-and-coming teen sensation, Selena Gomez, “Wizards of Waverly Place” manages to deliver consistently entertaining, wholesome comedy that the whole family can enjoy.
Gomez plays wizard-in-training, Alex Russo who lives in New York with her wizard dad Jerry Russo (David DeLuise), mom Theresa (Maria Canals-Barrera), and two brothers, Justin and Max (David Henrie, Jake T. Austin). While it may sound great having a dad as a Wizard, there’s one catch: only one of his children can keep their powers once they are older.
“Wizards of Waverly Place” follows the Russos as Jerry teaches his children magic while trying to run the family restaurant at the same time. The focus is mainly on Alex, who goes to school and deals with her new magic skills, as well as the struggles of being an everyday teen.
Alex and her brothers don’t necessarily get along, but that only adds to the family dynamic and creates some amusing situations. While there’s not much in the way of storyline, the series does manage to offer a nice balance between the family life as wizards and the usual day-to-day of siblings doing their best to outsmart one another.
Due to it’s success on the Disney Channel, a full-length "Wizards" movie doesn't come as much of a surprise. Premiering on the Disney Channel, “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie” was an instant hit. Following the Russos on their tropical vacation, the television movie captures everything that’s enjoyable about the series and brings it to new levels of entertainment quality while opening out the show a bit.
From the beginning, Alex lets her feelings against going on vacation be known, including arguing with her mom about attending a party thrown by Harper (Jennifer Stone). After Alex uses a spell that goes awry, tension mounts and the vacation gets off to a rocky start when Alex tells Harper that she doesn’t “want to spend two weeks in full on family mode”.
To add to the family friction, Alex gets upset when she discovers that her dad only trusted Justin with a powerful wizard wand and book of forbidden spells. This fact makes Alex more determined than ever to win the Wizard competition and become a full wizard in the future.
When they arrive in the Caribbean, Alex distances herself from her family. Since her mom declared the vacation “Magic Free”, Alex mopes around while constantly feeling steps behind her older brother. However, it's not long until she discovers that he has the magic wand with him. After Alex gets busted holding the wand, she gets upset and wishes that her parents never met.
While the wish wasn’t intended to come true, the power of the wand changes the lives of the Russos. Suddenly, her parents don’t recognize each other or their children. Alex, Justin and Max try and figure out a way to break the spell while seeing a totally new side to their parents. They learn that in order to reverse the spell, they’ll have to do it quickly or else they’ll start to forget their lives and ultimately disappear, "Back to the Future"-style.
While Max stays behind to ensure his parents don’t meet anyone else, Alex and Justin go in search of The Stone of Dreams with the help of former wizard Archie (Steve Valentine). As things go awry, they learn another way of undoing the spell: in order to reverse the spell they can compete for one of them to become a full wizard. The relationship between Alex and Justin here is especially key to the movie, as they must discover a way to come together to save their family, despite their sibling rivalry. Also, Alex’s relationship with her mom carries the storyline as she discovers what it would truly be like if her mom wasn’t around looking out for her daughter’s best interest.
“Wizards of Waverly Place” does feel like a new twist on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, but manages to stand on its own. Gomez, Henrie and Austin work great off each other. The pairing of Gomez and Henrie is especially inspired. Gomez gives a charming performance as Alex, who’s not like all the other girls at her school. Making Alex unique (in her clothing, her attitude and situation) in comparison to other Disney shows helps set “Waverly” apart. The magic used in the series does add to the story and helps keep the episodes amusing and far from falling flat.
“Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie” is an amusing mix of heart and humor, with a mostly entertaining storyline. The action-packed ending wraps up the movie perfectly and shouldn't disappoint fans. Recommended for families.
The DVD offers the 96-minute extended edition.
VIDEO: "Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie" is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality was about broadcast quality, with sharpness and detail that were above-average, with the exception of a few minor moments that appeared a tad softer.
Some slight edge enhancement was spotted in a few scenes and a couple of minor specks on the print were noticed, but the film otherwise looked clean and clear. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing. Flesh tones looked accurate, while black level remained satisfactory.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack largely comes from the front speakers, with the surrounds only providing light reinforcement of the music on occasion. Audio quality is perfectly average, with a bassy score and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: “Wiz Pix” is a behind-the-scenes feature that runs just over ten minutes with lots of photos and footage of the cast and crew during production. Fans will enjoy the look at some special effects involved in making a scene, the brief look at wardrobe, the look at the crew, and the extra footage/pictures. There are some humorous moments here and at just over ten minutes the feature never drags.
Also included on the “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie” Extended Edition is an advertisement for Disney Blu-ray with Dylan and Cole Sprouse, along with Kim Rhodes from “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”. As well as a look at Disney File Digital Copy.
Sneek Peaks included here are: “Alice in Wonderland”, “G-Force”, “Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition”, “Friends for Change”, “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam”, “Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue”, “Sonny With A Chance”, Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Blu-ray, and “Genuine or Garbage?”.
Included in the packaging of the Extended Edition is a wishing stone for wizards in training. With a guide to using the keychain wishing stone, fans of the series may enjoy the item.
Final Thoughts: A sweet and entertaining effort for families, "Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie" should delight fans of the series. The DVD offers pleasing audio/video quality and a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B