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A Simple Wish

A Simple Wish
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by Michael S. Glick
Jeff Rothberg
Written by Jeff Rothberg
Starring Martin Short
Mara Wilson
Robert Pastorelli
Amanda Plummer
Francis Capra
Ruby Dee
Teri Garr
Kathleen Turner
Music by Bruce Broughton
Cinematography Ralf D. Bode
Edited by William S. Scharf
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 11, 1997 (1997-07-11)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $8,345,056[1]

A Simple Wish is a 1997 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.[2]


The film begins with many fairy godmothers taking an exam. There is only one male one doing it, after a few hours of unsuccessfully trying to copy the others in order to pass his own quicker. He eventually finishes. The film then takes place three months after the exam concerning the life of an otherwise insignificant park carriage driver and aspiring actor named Oliver Greening, who 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.

That night, Hortence, 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.

Meanwhile, Claudia, a former fairy godmother who has turned into an evil witch, has shown up at the meeting uninvited. 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. Claudia escapes with her accomplice Boots, her pet dog that she has turned into a human, believing she has all the wands; however, she is missing Murray's.

The next day, Annabel realizes that Murray has left his magic wand behind and decides to return it to him, but Charlie breaks it. She tries to fix it during art class, but fails. She runs out of class and hides when her teacher tries to confiscate the wand, but unexpectedly meets Murray. 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 (turning him into a Script error: No such module "convert". rabbi, instead); 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. She tells them 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 (after being inspired by the "rain check" he gave Annabel the night they met), 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. Boots is tricked and "kidnaps" them, with Charlie following not too far behind with Murray's wand.

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. After a fight over the possession of the wand, Claudia wins but Boots steals it back and gives it to Murray. Out of spite, Claudia turns her back into a dog, then attempts to cast a spell on Murray, but, instead, rebounds on a mirror, drawing her into it: causing her to accidentally struggles to escape cause the mirror to fall down, shattering into tiny pieces. 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 (and is hinted they have mutual feelings for each other). 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. The play is a success, as Oliver moves the entire audience to tears with his stirring performance, and Murray walks home with Boots (who is now his dog).



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.[3] 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?"[4] ReelViews and the Austin Chronicle both reviewed the film,[5] 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."[6]

The Rotten Tomatoes approval rating is currently 27% based on 15 reviews.


  1. ^ A Simple Wish at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 247-248
  3. ^ A Simple Wish PixelatedGeek
  5. ^ Review: A Simple Wish ReelViews
  6. ^ A Simple Wish Austin Chronicle

External links