Film Review: Three Wishes (1995)

Length: 1Hr 55

Rating: PG

Release: 15th December 1995

About: Description

When single mother Jeanne Holman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) turns to avoid hitting a dog with her station wagon, she unwittingly hits bearded drifter Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze). Against the protests of her scandalized neighbors, Holman insists that the injured man stay at the Holman residence to heal. As the eccentric McCloud recovers from the accident, he becomes a positive influence on — and an unexpected father figure to — her young sons, Tom (Joseph Mazzello) and Gunny (Seth Mumy).

For Starters

I am pretty certain I saw this in the cinema. The only thing I’m not sure about, is who I went with. I’m convinced it wasn’t my birthday movie so it must have been a pre-Christmas trip with my neighbour. However, what I’m certain of is that it was something I chose to watch because ‘the kid from Jurassic Park’ was in it. It was one of many films I coerced my mum and others into taking me to see with that line. Jurassic Park also saw me watch Tremors at a much younger age than I should have because Mazzello’s onscreen sister was in it.

Anyway, I definitely saw it in the cinema and I think I’ve only seen it that one time before today. I have fond, feel good, memories linked to it.

The Good

• Its a beautiful story; the sort that isn’t made today. That dreamy, feel good nostalgic look at the 50s that was seen in films like Now and Then, Stand By Me and Forest Gump.

• At its heart this is a baseball movie. Tom and his team pretty much suck, but over the course of the film, they improve enough to win a game. As much as I would have loved to have seen more of this, it was more about Tom earning his place within the group that segregates him.

• What struck me when watching this time was the Buddhism approach to baseball that Patrick Swayze’s Jack teaches the boys. Not only does it help transform the boys and helps them win, the coach embraces the approach Jack offers. It’s quite a stark contrast to the toxic masculine leadership originally shown and something I couldn’t appreciate at the time.

• Joe Mazzello demonstrates once again why he was one of the best child actors around. His chemistry with Patrick Swayze is something I truly love; the distrust that melts away to accept a different father figure that the 50s was pumping out. How Tom is treated is heartbreaking; he’s not accepted because he doesn’t have a father. Mazzello has this amazing way of being a brat, but you knowing deep down he’s a good (if not impressionable) kid. There are actors out there who would make Tom an unlikable character, but it’s with scenes like the batting practice that shows you how much Tom wants to be happy.

• I love how strong the film allows Jeanne to be. In a period of time in which is was expected for her to remarry, she passes up a proposal and chooses to raise her boys alone. It’s empowering as a female viewer

• Finally… a film that shows the passage of time with the moon. This is silly, but I’ve been very frustrated to see a full moon in pretty much every single tv show or movie that shows the night sky. I was so very happy to see that when the moon appears for a second scene, days later, it is in fact waning.

The Bad

• The fantasy element is really good and I really wish there was more to it. This suffers in much the same way as Radio Flyer, the fantasy is so subtle you wonder if it really takes place. In Three Wishes, it might just be the case; the fantasy aspects only really present themselves once Gunny is diagnosed with cancer. It’s a shame, as if this was the main focus it would have added a lot of charm.

• Phil, the man courting Jeanne, is a dick. I really hate that he’s in it at all although I understand why. He enables the commentary of Jeanne ‘having’ to remarry in order to fit in within the nuclear families that were blossoming in the prefab homes.

The Ugly

• The target audience is a little unclear and while it’s sold as a family film, there’s a little too much adult-only screen time for little ones to enjoy and it really has such a slow pace that I don’t think would make this an all time favourite with adults.

• The narration approach doesn’t work with how the story unravels. We discover at the end that it was being ‘told’ by Tom. Yet there was so much of what we see that Tom wouldn’t know. I think it’s in this where the answer lies; he should have been the sole protagonist rather than it being an omnipresent narrator. By having that shift and perhaps allowing him in on the fantasy Gunny sees, it would make for a much more fluid story.

Final Thoughts

I’m so very glad I watched it again. I’m having fun going back and watching Maxzello’s early work. There was also a lovely surprise in catching sight of a pre-Arrowverse Neal McDonough and a pre-Gilmore Girls Scott Patterson.

It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a perfect Sunday afternoon watch with family.

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