A Simple Wish

United States - 1997

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

"You only get one wish," the fairy godmother warns her, "and no fair wishing for more wishes. They fixed that loophole years ago -- it was abuse, really."

Thus, Annabelle, played by Mara Wilson of "Matilda" fame, finds herself face to face with her long-imagined fairy godmother. Instead of a kindly old woman with white hair and a sweet face, she gets buck-toothed, bow-tied Murray, played by an over-geekified Martin Short. Annabelle is skeptical. "I know what you're thinking," he says, "it's my hair, it's red. Okay, okay, it's the whole guy thing, isn't it?"

"A Simple Wish" is a modest title for this ambitious little film from Universal Pictures. Directed by Michael Ritche, the movie takes the oldest of fairy tales -- Cinderella -- and puts a modern spin on it, minus the icky romance.

Narrowly graduated from Fairy Godmother Training, Murray faces his first assignment with Annabelle, an idealistic youngster who just wants her father, played with tender humor by Robert Pastorelli, to win the lead in a big Broadway musical so they don't have to move to Nebraska and turn horses into glue with some distant relative. A justifiable nightmare, if I do say so myself.

Short is a fumbling, dowdy, sarcastic excuse for an FG and the only male industry rep in all of Manhattan. In addition to cleaning up behind the mess of his own klutzy magic, Murray must also put a stop to the evil Claudia, played by the beautiful and bewitching Kathleen Turner, and her dumb-dog-turned-girlie-sidekick, Boots, played with snappy verve by Amanda Plummer.

Wilson is predictably darling but the actress must work on supressing her smerks. Francis Capra, who plays the brother, Charlie, pulls off a more believable typical kid role. In fact, the sibling connection between the two young actors moves the film along nicely.

But make no mistake, this is Martin Short in all his glory and it is his film from beginning to end -- with the brief exception of a 50-foot rabbi. Thankfully, Short is a silly, silly man who brings the character to three-dimensional life. Just when you think Murray is a hapless wimp with no backbone, he marches up to danger and unwittingly mocks it, still terrified but unable to stop himself. Magic schmagic, this is, after all, still New York and neurosis are always welcome.

© 1997 Heather Clisby Air Date: 6/97

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