What a moment. Hannah Montana: The Movie (in theaters), Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, and Princess Protection Program all in one year. Was this the peak of Miley, Selena, and Demi’s reign on the Disney Channel? Perhaps. 11.4 million people watched the Emmy-winning Wizards movie, directed by Lev L. Spiro, written by creator Todd J. Greenwald and prolific DCOM writer Dan Berendsen. Wizards of Waverly Place, which premiered in 2007, would air new episodes through 2012, mirroring Hannah Montana’s five-year run (2006-2011). As fans remember, the Russos reunited in 2013 for the special Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie was filmed throughout Puerto Rico for the setting of a tropical family vacation. Unlike a few other summer DCOMs, there’s no elaborate plot for the family to be stranded on an island. Instead, Wizards meets Back to the Future. The film opens at the classic Waverly sub station. As I think I’ve said before, it’s always a little strange to see multi-cam Disney Channel TV sets converted to a single-cam movie look. However, Mark Hofeling’s production design in DCOMs is always top-notch. We’re only at the sub shop for a few minutes, and this is where we glimpse Harper, who isn’t in the rest of the movie. She and Alex take an unexpected subway ride.
I appreciate the mother-daughter connection explored at the beginning and end of this movie. Alex clearly does not want to go on this vacation or wear matching outfits with her fam. She’s 16 and expects to make all her own decisions. Theresa is very firm with her daughter, expecting Alex to participate in all the family activities without using any magic. The fateful moment is, of course, when Theresa learns that Alex is secretly using magic. The Russo ladies fight for a few moments before Alex bellows, “I wish you and Dad had never even met!” Boom. Back to the Future, wizard style. Alex, Justin, and Max spend the movie trying to put their parents — who are now total strangers — back together.
Max is the first sibling to completely forget who his family is. Since he’s now living his pre-kids life, Jerry is a full wizard and is able to facilitate an early wizard competition so Alex or Justin can gain full power and bring back Max. Alex wins, but she chooses to erase the competition when given the Stone of Dreams, allowing her to wish everything was back to normal, thereby restoring her parents’ marriage and family.
It was fun to see Steve Valentine, who is usually a villain in DCOMs (Don’t Look Under the Bed, Avalon High, Teen Beach Movie). His character in the Wizards movie, Archie, is kind of a bad guy — Archie wants to use the Stone of Dreams to turn his parrot girlfriend into a human again. It turns out that she’s terrible as both a woman and a bird. Archie makes the right decision and gives the Russos the Stone in the end.