Directed by: Lev L. Spiro | 98 minutes | comedy, adventure, family, fantasy | Actors: Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin, Jennifer Stone, Maria Canals-Barrera, David DeLuise, Steve Valentine, Xavier Torres, Jennifer Alden, Jazmín Caratini, Jonathan Dwayne, Marisé Alvarez, Bettina Mercado, Veraalba Santa, Gabriela Rosario
TV series spin-offs. There are many examples of this. Sometimes a TV series does not get a reboot until decades later (“Charlie’s Angels”, “The A-Team”) with new actors, sometimes after a few years (“Sex and the City” and the sequel). There is only speculation about other spin-offs for years (the “Friends” film) and nothing ever comes of the initial plans. The American sitcom “The Wizards of Waverly Place” (2007), which is broadcast by Disney Channel, is being made into a TV movie after the third season of the series. From a commercial point of view, of course, a great decision, because why wait when you can milk a successful concept even more? However, Disney doesn’t deserve to be as negative as that “milking” sounds, because “The Wizards of Waverly Place-The Movie” has turned out to be a really nice film, which will entertain hordes of teenagers (and even their parents).
The TV series “The Wizards of Waverly Place” is about the Russo family living in New York. Alex (Selena Gomez), her brother Justin (David Henrie) and the couple’s youngest, Max (Jake T. Austin) live with their parents in Waverly Place, where their parents run a lunchroom. The three children go to high school, but are also taught by their father Jerry (David DeLuise, son of Dom). Palief has been a magician, but when he fell in love with Theresa (Maria Canals-Barrera) and wanted to marry her, he had to give up the magic. However, he may still pass on the art of magic to his posterity.
The three children are very different. The elder, Justin, is serious and obedient, but is often called in by Alex to help her out. Alex is quite a rebellious teenager, who often uses magic to get under the strict rules of her parents. Many episodes of the series revolve around the problems Alex causes with her magic wand. There is an episode where she convinces her parents to give her friend Harper (Jennifer Stone) a job at the lunchroom, but Harper turns out to be a disastrous waitress. Alex casts a spell on her friend, turning her into a great employee, but soon this turns into a fight. In another episode, Justin has a giant pimple on his forehead, which spoils his plans to go to Junior Prom with his first real girlfriend. Alex tries to use magic to make the disgusting pimple disappear, but instead she turns it into a pimple with a talking face! Much of the humor in the series comes from Alex and Justin’s relationship and spells that have gone wrong.
In the first feature film about the wizards-in-training, Theresa and Jerry go on vacation, but when Alex proves just before they leave that they can’t handle the responsibility of being home without parental supervision, all three kids have to go along vacation. Dressed in matching outfits – the specter of every teenager – the five set off for a week to the Caribbean, the place where Theresa and Jerry met. Justin, Max and especially Alex go crazy reminiscing about that time. The fact that Theresa has forbidden all magic during the holidays does not make the stay more attractive. It goes without saying that the Russo children don’t care much about the ban and still do magic. When Alex receives an invitation from the handsome surf instructor to go to a beach party, Theresa refuses to let her go and that’s the last straw for bored Alex. From the bottom of her heart, she wishes she wished her parents had never met, but because she was holding a magic wand at the time, this wish comes true immediately.
This alternate reality quickly turns into a nightmare: Although all five family members are still present at the tropical resort, Jerry and Theresa neither know each other nor recognize their offspring. Jerry turns out to be a lighthearted drone, not flirtatious in his forties, and Theresa also accepts the attention of many men. Alex, Justin and Max must do everything they can to undo the spell or they will disappear in the foreseeable future. What follows is an adventure through the jungle of the Caribbean, where especially Alex and Justin have to work together and keep their bickering to a minimum. The tone of the film is the same as that of the series, but fortunately the film does not feel like a stretched episode. The special effects are a bit cheap here and there, but are acceptable for a pro made straight for TV duction. The story is well written, with plenty of action and humor, and offers landmarks for each age group by elaborating on themes such as adolescent children and the conflicts that this entails, the difficulty of releasing your children and the desire for a good family relationship . In addition, the cast is in good shape, with the charismatic and energetic Selena Gomez as a positive outlier. Fans of the series will certainly not be disappointed with this first spin-off!