A Simple Wish
|A Simple Wish|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Ritchie|
|Produced by||Michael S. Glick
|Written by||Jeff Rothberg|
|Music by||Bruce Broughton|
|Cinematography||Ralf D. Bode|
|Edited by||William S. Scharf|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
A Simple Wish (also known as The Fairy Godmother) is a 1997 children's-fantasy-comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie, and starring Martin Short, Mara Wilson, and Kathleen Turner. The film about a bumbling male fairy godmother named Murray (Short), who tries to help eight-year-old Annabel (Wilson) fulfill her wish that her father, a carriage driver, wins the leading role in a Broadway musical.
It was the last film from director Michael Ritchie before his death in 2001.
Oliver Greening 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 attempts to get her brother Charlie to believe that the tooth fairy exists, Murray, 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, 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. Claudia, meanwhile, 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, 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 Oliver, his understudy, 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.
- 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 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."
The Rotten Tomatoes approval rating is currently 25% based on 16 reviews.