THREE WISHES is a totally non-offensive family movie about nothing
much of anything, but one that provides a pleasant, dreamy time at the
local Bijou. No one attempts anything remotely resembling acting, but
a series of nostalgic images feel your senses as you are transported to
a simpler time. You get to be a nine year old boy in 1955 exactly as I
once was. The great lovely and lush cinematography (Johnny E. Jensen)
is full of the saturated colors of the movies of that era. The sets
are perfect and full of 50's kitsch. I think the sets are award
Although the movie starts and ends in the present, it is set
almost totally in the summer of 1955. The mother, Jeanne Hallman (Mary
Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and her two sons, nine year old Tom (Joseph
Mazzello) and three year old Gunther (Seth Mumy) live in a new tract
housing development in California. The development is set in the
middle of a desert, but the homes all have grass lawns and little scrub
trees. Behind the houses are cactuses and barren land. As they drive
up to the development, we see the large billboard proudly proclaiming
these as "The American Dream Homes" and listing the price as $13,500.
Most viewers will remark what a steal that seems. Since we moved at
that time to a similar development in Texas and paid $8,000, my
reaction was that California was overpriced even 40 years ago.
The family is trying to find its way since the father was a pilot
who was shot down, killed, and lost forever over Korea three years
earlier. Some of the early scenes are of the Hallman family going to
visit the military graveyard where the father is not buried. The mom
makes do with accounting jobs she does not want and for which is not
particularly well suited.
The Hallman's go to a town picnic where Jeanne is told she is "daring"
for wearing shorts. Tom is humiliated by being the only one not picked
for the baseball game since, as one of the kids told him
matter-of-factly, "we want to win." Again, this hits home, because I
was a terrible baseball player and was always picked last if at all.
Jeanne hits a drifter, Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze), with her
car. Since she broke his leg, she takes pity on him and invites him to
stay at their home. As the story unfolds, it seems that he may have a
secret and he may know magic or then again, maybe not. What is certain
is that he has a Zen approach to teaching baseball and the local little
league team, which is in the cellar, can use all of the help it can
The best part of the show has nothing to do with the flimsy plot.
The best part is the sets. We have the 50s lovingly recreated in
turquoise which has to be the color of that era. We have turquoise
dial phones, refrigerators, china sets, etc. It feels as if
everything, but Jeannie's hair is turquoise. It is presented much as
the GE Carousel of Progress did at Disneyland for years until, sadly,
they tore it down. The only part of the movie that is inauthentic is
the fascination with bomb shelters and the fear of bomb blasts, which
is always over emphasized in movies about the 50s. Of course, Jeanne
drives a Woody, but the other cars are neat too with salmon and white
two tone Fords and other classic cars. Little Gunther even has his
Davy Crockett coonskin cap.
Back to the lack of acting. Heartthrob Patrick Swayze has never
been much of an actor. He was fine in DIRTY DANCING, but has done
nothing else worth mentioning. Here he spends the entire movie with a
single pensive stare and rarely speaks. Practice a pensive look in the
mirror for an hour, and you could do as well. Now go to central
casting and get your million.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has had a few decent pictures, the
last being CONSENTING ADULTS, but I have never been particularly
impressed by her work. Here she perfects a pleasant little smile and
keeps it unchanged throughout the entire movie. I think she must have
used Crazy Glue.
Joseph Mazzello does not show a lot of promise, but he was
superior to any of the adults. Only first time movie actor Seth Mumy
does a credible job. His dream scene is full of imaginative acting.
The real hero of the show is a fuzz ball of a dog that Jack owns. He
is a delight to watch especially in the scene where he mimics Gunther's
fright while watching King Kong on TV.
The movie has heavy stereotyping. The dads are all shown as ones
that you would not want for your dad. They push their kids and do not
really care about them. They mainly want to drink cocktails and wait
for hunting season so they can kill all the beautiful deer in the area.
The moms are stay at home types who spend most of their time being
The film moves slowly as is it is in a trance and yet, I was
caught up in it. It is not a film to analyze heavily or its spirit
will vanish in front of you because of some Heisenberg uncertainty
principle. It has an aura that is hard to capture in print, but then
again, perhaps it is because I can identify with the era so well. With
a better director (Martha Coolidge whose only decent film was RAMBLING
ROSE) and a different cast, the film had potential for much more.
Oh yes, you probably want to know what all of this has to do with
three wishes. Well, in the last ten minutes of the show, we get to
that almost as an afterthought. Suffice it to say that it is the only
attempt at seriousness and meaning in the entire film. It is a partial
success. The last scene, set in the present, is excellent and a
wonderful way to wrap up a show that had no direction.
THREE WISHES runs too slow at 1:48. It is rated R for a one
second glimpse at Swayze's nude rear, a few bad words, and two mildly
scary scenes. Most kids over 4 should be able to handle it fine. This
is a show that will bore kids with short attention spans. Jeffrey (age
6 1/2) liked the show although he did not seem particularly enthused
about it. He gave it a thumbs up overall, but a thumbs sideways for
the brief monster dream sequence. The monster turns out to be a good
guy in the dream I should point out. I can not bring myself to
recommend others see this show, but I actually enjoyed it, and I give
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes