A Simple Wish
Apparently Mara Wilson, who stars as young Anabel in this chaotic fairy tale, is the only cute little girl in Hollywood, because she seems to show up in every major children's film these days. This makes perfect sense. Mara Wilson is rapidly nearing that age (known in L.A. as "the awkward years") when she'll be old enough to have breasts, but too young to show them legally, so the industry needs to squeeze everything they can out of her before she retires to the Drew Barrymore wing of the Betty Ford Clinic to pass her teens in a methadone haze.
To define this film as harum-scarum would be an understatement. Anabel wishes that her father (Robert Pastorelli) would get a part in a play and ends up with a bungling fairy godmother named Murray (Martin Short). Martin Short, as we all know from watching the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" is the "funniest man in America," adequate proof in my book that not only does Rosie not know what funny is, but is also pining to get laid in the worst way. Martin does in this film what he does on most of his talk show appearances: act like an imbecile.
Perhaps director Michael ("Fletch") Ritchie has been putting too much sugar on his Cocoa Puffs, because the movie is a plodding, overbearing fairy tale advanced only by periodic bursts of special effects. Murray turns Anabel's father into a statue and his horse into a mouse, while the bad fairy godmother (Kathleen Turner) and her dog-turned-associate, Boots (Amanda Plummer), go on a rampage and flatten the leader of the fairy godmothers.
While Mara Wilson may be Hollywood's idea of the perfect child star, it's pretty damn obvious she's got a head full of ego. Her acting here seems so staged that one gets the sense she revisited a kindergarten to rediscover "the method." Sometimes those "awkward years" just can't come soon enough.
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