Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie offers up a sizably portioned helping of adolescent-friendly supernatural adventure as it tracks the Russos, the family of wizards-in-training at the center of the same-named Disney Channel small screen hit, on a quest full of heart-stopping action and magical mishaps. While on an island vacation, Alex (Selena Gomez) accidentally casts a spell that threatens her family’s existence. Young Max (Jake T. Austin) tries to keep his parents (Maria Canals-Barrera and David DeLuise, son of Dom) together while Alex and older brother Justin (David Henrie) use every trick they know as they try to search out the legendary “Stone of Dreams” in order to reverse the spell and save their family.
Running just over 95 minutes, Wizards of Waverly Place doesn’t put a spin that’s new or particularly interesting — for older, more sophisticated audiences — on the old magic-gone-awry tropes of its narrative conceit. Yet neither does the movie overstay its welcome. Well-timed and warmly acted, its mild slapstick comedy, rib-nudging rejoinders and inoffensive sibling bickering and conflict resoultion are all whipped up into a colorful melange, and the movie has the additional benefit of not trying to reach outside its comfort zone (read: budget) with respect to the special effects. Tween fans of the TV show will certainly spark to this title, and for those unfamiliar but in the same proper demographic who get sucked into watching it, they’ll find it a solid introduction to the characters and same themes explored in the show.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie arrives on DVD packaged with a color-changing wish stone keychain clip included on the release, which is in a vacuum-sealed cardboard cover. Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen enhanced for 16×9 televisions, the movie comes with English, Spanish and French language audio tracks in Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound, as well as optional French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus features include a clutch of extended scenes, as well as a wide variety of on-location interview snippets that make up a solid behind-the-scenes featurette, covering the film’s special effects, stunt work, props, animal actors and more. Director Lev Spiro, special effects coordinator Craig Tex Barnett, visual effects supervisor Dan Schmit and other off-camera talent all get face time here, but not too wonkish in their descriptions to bore kids, the more naturally inquisitive of whom will spark to these moviemaking explanations. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) B (Disc)