Three Wishes (1995)


USA. 1995.


Director – Martha Coolidge, Screenplay – Elizabeth Anderson, Story – Clifford Green & Ellen Green, Producers – Clifford Green, Ellen Green & Gary Lucchesi, Photography – Johnny E. Jensen, Music – Cynthia Millar, Visual Effects – Tippett Studio (Supervisor – Phil Tippett), Additional Digital/CGI Effects – R. Greenberg Associates West (Supervisor – Jon Farhart), Special Effects Supervisor – David P. Kelsey, Production Design – John Vallone. Production Company – Rysher Entertainment


Patrick Swayze (Jack McCloud), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Jeanne Holman), Joseph Mazzello (Tom Holman), Seth Mumy (Gunny Holman), David Marshall Grant (Phil), Jay O. Sanders (Coach Schramka), John Diehl (Leland), David Zakorsky (Little Leland), Michael O’Keefe (Adult Tom)


Tom Holman remembers back to growing up in the 1950s where he and his brother Gunny where raised by his mother after their father failed to return from the Korean War. Their mother accidentally ran down drifter Jack McCloud and then offered him to come and stay while his broken leg mended. There Jack’s unconventional behaviour caused outrage. He and Tom’s mother became lovers, while Jack’s Buddhist disciplines also succeeded in turning the school baseball team into winners. Tom and his younger brother then learned that Jack’s dog was a genie and Jack its travelling companion, both having come to grant each of them their wish.

This children’s film is an interesting peculiarity. For the greater part of its running time, Three Wishes almost seems mislabelled as genre material – it is more of a lost childhood nostalgia drama and Coming of Age Story along the lines of Stand By Me (1986) or tv’s The Wonder Years (1988-93), than it is a children’s fantasy. The images of life growing up in the 1950s are nicely conducted and the relationship between Patrick Swayze and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio holds a good deal more adult writing and emotions than one should expect of a children’s film. There is a quiet underlying message about individuality and standing up to believe in oneself against the tide of conformity.

The fantasy elements never appear up until the end. There we get some brief dreadfully twee scenes with the younger kid’s room turning into a jungle and the appearance of a benign monster. The end revelation of the dog being a genii with Patrick Swayze as his immortal companion jars with the otherwise realistic tone the film establishes. It is like the bittersweet nostalgia of say Stand By Me being interrupted by the appearance of a cartoon witch or dragon at the end. In fact, when one thinks about it, Three Wishes is a film that would have worked far better without any fantasy elements at all.

Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze) and dog Betty Jane in Three Wishes (1995)
Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze) and dog Betty Jane

Despite these faults, it is a decent little film. Everyone plays well, even the normally monosyllabic Patrick Swayze who during the 1990s seemed to be trying to reinvent a flagging career as a mid-1980s hunk by appearing in children’s films.

Director Martha Coolidge is better known for films such as Valley Girl (1982), the acclaimed Rambling Rose (1991), Lost in Yonkers (1993), Angie (1994), Out to Sea (1997) and The Prince and Me (2004). Her one other genre outing was the hi-tech frat rat comedy Real Genius (1985).

Trailer here

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