A SIMPLE WISH
A Simple Wish was made by Michael Ritchie, the director of the likes of Prime Cut (1972), The Candidate (1972), The Bad News Bears (1976) and the Fletch films. While most of these have been well received, Michael Ritchies outings into fantasy have been misguided disasters the potentially interesting but leaden Peter Benchley adaptation The Island (1980) about a lost society of pirates surviving in the Bermuda Triangle, the flop Eddie Murphy Asian fantasy The Golden Child (1986) and the film version of the musical The Fantasticks (2000). A Simple Wish is mostly conducted as loud, noisy chaos. It starts in from the opening scenes with Martin Short causing disaster during a Fairy Godmother entrance exam by cheating, shredding his paper, losing his pencil and the like, and only progresses downwards from there.
Martin Short gives an amazingly over-the-top performance, constantly pratfalling and falling over. The only direction Short appears to have been given is that there is no ceiling on how far over the top he is allowed to go. Kathleen Turner plays OTT too but at least she is a seasoned pro at this type of performance and proves entertaining when on screen, even if the single-dimensionality of the role eventually tires. Teri Garr, on the other hand, an arch performer who could have played the Kathleen Turner part equally well, looks washed-up and embarrassed.
What is almost as irritating about the film as the persistent inanity of the slapstick is its phoniness as drama. The plot only draws attention by the arbitrariness of the devices it swings in order to generate fake tension the need that a wish be made at 500 paces from the object of the wish; the need for Kathleen Turner to have to collect 100 wands, the last of which just happens to have been left with Mara Wilson; that Kathleen Turner has to be stopped before midnight or else the fathers accidental transformation into a statue becomes permanent. What is even more infuriating about the forcedness of this is that having set up these preconditions the story comes to an ending where the midnight deadline is not met but the film, in grand childrens film tradition of refusing to allow tragedy to ever happen, cheats and says it doesnt matter and allows the day to be won out by heart magic.
(Winner in this sites Worst Films of 1997 list).