1995, PG, 108 min. Directed by Martha Coolidge. Starring Patrick Swayze, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Joseph Mazzello, Seth Mumy, Michael O'Keefe.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Oct. 27, 1995
I have only one wish, and that is to see Martha Coolidge direct a film that incorporates both strong female characters and a strong story. Coolidge never seems to have trouble with the female characters, but the stories of past films like Lost in Yonkers and Angie always seem to be a little too something -- melodramatic, simplistic, or just plain predictable. Similar problems exist in her latest film, Three Wishes. Here Coolidge teams Swayze as Jack McCloud, a drifter with a mysterious past, and Mastrantonio (best-known for her role opposite Tom Cruise in The Color of Money) as Jeanne Holman, a young mother trying to raise sons Tom (Mazzello) and Gunny (Mumy) in the absence of their father, lost in the Korean War. Set primarily in the 1950s, Three Wishes is told in flashback by an adult Tom (O'Keefe) as he struggles with a string of bad-luck life choices. Reflecting back to the summer of 1955, he remembers the impact McCloud had on all three members of his family. Told with humor and affecting highs and lows, Three Wishes introduces magic in the characters of Jack and his dog, Betty Jane. When Jeanne accidentally hits Jack with her car, she invites him to stay in her home while his broken leg heals. Jeanne's generosity encourages much sniping from her neighbors and intimates, but Jack's truly magical presence affects Jeanne, Tom, and young Gunny in ways that change their world. Coolidge's message praising individuality and instinctual decisions plays well in the character of Jeanne, a uniquely independent woman amidst the conformity of 1950s suburbia. The script by Elizabeth Anderson effectively sketches out nuanced characters like McCloud and the young sons. However, the story steers away from what seems like a sadly logical but nonetheless rewarding ending by “answering” the three wishes for each of the Holmans. Additionally, the contemporary sections featuring an adult Tom play quite awkwardly, almost laughably. Coolidge's heart is in the right place with Three Wishes, but the film's mix of drama and fantasy doesn't blend well. Just as McCloud coaches Tom in baseball by explaining how “pushing too hard” achieves the opposite reaction, so too does Martha Coolidge lose the power in her film by striving for too magical an ending.