A Simple Wish
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Written byJeff Rothberg
Produced bySid Sheinberg
Jon Sheinberg
Bill Sheinberg
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited byWilliam S. Scharf
Music byBruce Broughton
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 11, 1997 (1997-07-11)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million
Box office$8,345,056[1]

A Simple Wish (also known as The Fairy Godmother) is a 1997 American children's-fantasy-comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie, and starring Martin Short, Mara Wilson, and Kathleen Turner. The film is about a bumbling male fairy godmother named Murray (Short), who tries to help 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]


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New York horse carriage driver Oliver Greening (Robert Pastorelli) aspires to be a performer on Broadway and, despite delivering an outstanding audition for a role in a musical based on A Tale of Two Cities, he loses out to veteran performer Tony Sable (Alan Campbell), simply for the fact Tony is considered to be a more bankable option, as Oliver's reputation as an actor is non-existent. Later that night, Annabel (Mara Wilson), Oliver's young daughter, fails to convince her elder brother Charlie (Francis Capra) that fairy godmothers exist, and after the two fall asleep, Annabel awakens to find Murray (Martin Short), a male fairy godmother, in her room. He offers her one wish, which she uses for her father, asking Murray to use his magic to secure him a role in the play: in fact, if Oliver didn't obtain the role, he would have to move in Nebraska with his sons to work for his brother.

Hortence (Ruby Dee), 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. Claudia (Kathleen Turner), a former fairy godmother turned into a evil witch, has shown up at the meeting uninvited and intends to steal all the wands. She gives Hortence's receptionist, Rena (Teri Garr) a witch's apple that puts her to sleep, casts a spell on Hortence turning the head fairy paper-thin and binding her mouth with bricks; then she locks all the fairy godmothers downstairs on her way to stealing the wands. Murray, however, arrives at the meeting late and never checks his wand, leaving it as the only wand Claudia doesn't have.

Annabel realizes that Murray has left his magic wand behind and decides to return it to him, but Charlie breaks it. Murray and Annabel 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 rabbit (turning him instead into a giant rabbi), the two end up back in Central Park. Because of Annabel 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 Hortence's help, who is still under the effects of Claudia's spell. While Murray, Charlie and Rena (who has awoken from Claudia's sleeping spell) fix Murray's wand, Hortence tells Annabel 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 belongs to Murray, and she is determined to obtain it.

Annabel and Murray head to the theatre 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 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 (Amanda Plummer), Claudia's terrier turned lackey who has been looking for Murray, finds them. Murray mentions the story of Brer Rabbit to Annabel and together they beg her not to take them to Claudia's lair so that she will.

Claudia confronts them, and demands them to tell her where her wand is. When Murray tries to persuade Annabel not to tell her, as punishment, Claudia changes her and Murray into ballerinas and makes them dance uncontrollably until one of them agrees to tell her. However, Annabel is able to keep Claudia distracted until Charlie can pass Murray's wand to him, Murray winning Boots' allegiance long enough to convince her to give him the wand. Claudia attempts to attack him, but Murray is able to trick her into firing a spell that draws her into a mirror, which is subsequently shattered.

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. 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 including Hortence, who is now free from Claudia's spell.



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 25% based on 16 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