A Simple Wish is a 1997 children's-fantasy-comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie (his last film before his death in 2001).

The film about a bumbling male fairy godmother who tries to help an eight-year-old girl fulfill her wish that her father (a carriage driver) wins the leading role in a Broadway musical.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Oliver Greening (Robert Pastorelli) is rejected from a coveted performance in a musical version of "A Tale of Two Cities" for simply not being a bankable performer.

After Oliver's daughter Annabel (Mara Wilson) attempts to get her brother Charlie (Francis Capra) to believe that the tooth fairy exists, Murray (Martin Short), a clumsy fairy godmother, appears after Charlie has gone to sleep. Annabel wants to wish for her father to get the role, but Murray suddenly remembers he is late for an important engagement and promises to return to grant her wish later.

Hortence (Ruby Dee), the head of all fairy godmothers is holding the annual meeting of the North American Fairy Godmothers Association (NAFGA). Due to Hortence's rule, all the fairy godmothers must check in their wands before the meeting. Murray arrives late and is therefore locked out of the meeting.

Claudia (Kathleen Turner), a former fairy godmother who has turned into an evil witch, has shown up at the meeting uninvited and tricks Hortence's receptionist, Rena (Teri Garr) into eating a witch's apple which puts her to sleep.

Hortence arrives and orders Claudia to leave. Claudia refuses and unexpectedly casts a spell that turns the head fairy into a paper-thin, two-dimensional version of herself. The spell renders Hortence completely powerless, leaving Claudia free to steal all the checked wands from her office.

Annabel realizes that Murray has left his magic wand behind and decides to return it to him, but Charlie breaks it. The two disappear to Nebraska, by way of a misconstrued spell cast by him to get out quickly.

After he tries and fails to turn a selfish motel owner, they meet there into a giant rabbit. The two end up back in Central Park. Because of them disappearing in an unexplained way, the school closes early. Charlie finds them.

Annabel begs Murray to try to grant her wish now that they are close to her father, but due to yet another mishap by him, Oliver is turned into a statue. To fix the problem, the three of them go to NAFGA and ask for the help of Hortence, still under the effects of Claudia's spell.

While Murray, Charlie and Rena who has awoken from Claudia's sleeping spell fix Murray's wand, Hortence tells Annabel of Claudia's plot and explains that the awry spell must be lifted before midnight or Oliver will be doomed to remain a statue forever.

Meanwhile, Claudia has been looking through the wands, searching for hers. After going through, she realizes it is missing and now belonging to Murray and is determined to obtain it.

Annabel and Murray head to the theater and see Tony Sable (Alan Campbell), the selfish and conceited actor who is auditioning for Oliver's part. Knowing this could ruin her father's chance of being in the show, she asks Murray to sabotage the audition any way he can.

First, he tries to make it rain on the stage but it is dismissed as a simple technical problem and the audition continues. Then she asks him to give Sable a frog in his throat to impair his singing. He takes this wish too literally and frogs start hopping out of Sable's mouth, shocking the cast and crew. Annabel and Murray celebrate, but Sable gets the part since Oliver has not shown up.

Boots, who has been looking for Murray, finds them. Murray mentions the story of Brer Rabbit to Annabel and they beg her not to take them to Claudia's lair so she will.

Claudia catches them, and demands them to tell her where her wand is. When Murray tries to persuade Annabel otherwise into not telling her, as punishment, Claudia changes her and Murray into ballerinas and makes them dance uncontrollably until Annabel agrees to tell her.

Murray, Charlie and Annabel return to Central Park and restore Oliver just in time. He is given the part of Sable's understudy thanks to a producer who enjoyed his audition. In order to finally grant Annabel's wish, Murray appears backstage and causes Sable to slip on a bucket, and twist his ankle. The resultant temper tantrum gets him fired and his understudy Oliver is cast in his place.

Charlie and Annabel watch the show with Murray and the other fairy godmothers including Hortence, who is now free from Claudia's spell.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Martin Short as Murray
  • Mara Wilson as Anabel Greening
  • Robert Pastorelli as Oliver Greening
  • Francis Capra as Charlie Greening
  • Ruby Dee as Hortence: The Head Of the Fairy Godmothers
  • Kathleen Turner as Claudia
  • Teri Garr as Rena
  • Amanda Plummer as Boots
  • Jonathan Hadary as Lord Richard
  • Deborah Odell as Jeri
  • Alan Campbell as Tony Sable
  • Jack McGee as Officer York

Reception[edit | edit source]

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"A Simple Wish" opened at #9 at the box office. During its opening weekend, it grossed $2,732,880.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

Based on 16 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 25% rating.

Reception to the movie was negative with Pixelated Geek's Cinerina stating that while the movie's jokes might not appeal to adults, the movie would have appeal for a younger audience.

Roger Ebert gave the film one and half stars, saying: "When family audiences avoid inspired films like The Secret Garden, The Little Princess and Shiloh, why would they choose a pallid exercise like this?"

ReelViews and the Austin Chronicle both reviewed the film with the Chronicle stating that "The concept's good... But this family film about an incompetent fairy godmother named Murray (Short), is shy several handfuls of fairy dust."

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


A Simple Wish (1997) Trailer

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