Justin: I don’t know who you are but I believe you.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Wizards of Waverly Place was one of the last few decent Disney Channel sitcoms out there. And like most Disney Channel shows back in the day, it got its own Disney Channel original movie. And for what it is, it is a relatively decent movie capable of entertaining fans of the show and newcomers.
The story involves a family of wizards known as the Russos going on a vacation in attempt to get closer with one another. While there, they meet a street magician and former wizard named Archie (Steve Valentine) and his girlfriend transformed into a parrot named Giselle. Unfortunately the three kids Alex (Selena Gomez), Justin (David Henrie), and Max (Jake T. Austin) do not have much fun while on vacation. After a heated argument with her mother, Alex angrily wishes that her parents never met. Due to accidentally holding her dad’s full-wizard wand her wish is granted, the parents have no idea who each other are and seem like completely different people. Alex, Justin, and Max have to reverse the spell in 48 hours otherwise they will gradually forget their past before disappearing forever. Thus Alex and Justin set off to find the Stone of Dreams that has the power to grant any one wish while Max works to keep his parents together.
On paper the story and writing doesn’t seem like much that would lead to anything big. However a lot of the movie is more built on its performances, which are fantastic. When it comes to most DCOMs involving family connections there often isn’t enough time for the actors to rehearse well enough to feel like they’ve really known each other for years and fully flesh out the performances. But given that they had all been on the show a couple of years prior to this, all the actors give believable performances leading to the majority of comedic and even heartfelt moments throughout the movie. There are instances of comedic writing that on paper wouldn’t be funny but the way the actors deliver it make it work. Even when the family gets angry at each other it doesn’t feel out of place. They’re still a unique unit and caring family.
Another performance that stuck out was Steve Valentine as Archie. The idea of him talking to a parrot that is supposed to be his girlfriend is incredibly silly but he manages to make it believable and funny every second he is on screen. This not only works in comedy but also in building the connections between the characters.
With all this being said the film definitely has a couple of flaws. The first is Giselle when she transforms back into a human they try to make her out to be a complete villain by having her be a jerk to Archie and refusing to give the stone but it’s only for a couple of minutes and it feels rather pointless.
The second flaw is the climax with Alex and Justin facing off in the Wizard Competition to become full wizards to reverse the spell. If you haven’t watched the show you may not fully understand it and it doesn’t fully tie into the rest of the story. The idea of having them combat with elements of water, fire, earth, and air is creative in the ways they pull it off but the CGI during this scene looks really bad. To be fair it’s made up for through the humor during the fight and the heartfelt moment after Alex wins and reality begins to catch up to Justin and he loses his memory as she tearfully begs her brother not to leave. This is once again made a great moment through the performances.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie is creative to the best of its ability with its humor and even the dramatic moments. All of this can be rooted back to the actors’ performances, which is the movie’s saving grace. There can be moments where it can be awkward but when it coms to DCOMs that’s often expected. The heart of the show has always been the camaraderie among the family and that carries over brilliantly here and drives the movie.