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Three Wishes

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Three Wishes

Starring: Patrick Swayze, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Director: Martha Coolidge
Rated: PG
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: November 1995
Genres: Drama, Kids, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Joseph Mazzello, Seth Mumy, Michael O'Keefe, David Marshall Grant, Diane Venora, Jay O. Sanders, John Diehl, Colleen Camp, Bill Mumy

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 caliber.

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 get.

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 busybodies.

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 it **.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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