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Buy from Amazon

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HBO presents
Three Wishes (1995)

"You always wanted what you didn't have. My wish for you was that you'd find happiness in whatever you got."
- Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: October 04, 2000

Stars: Patrick Swayze, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Joseph Mazzello, Seth Mumy
Other Stars: Diane Venora, Michael O' Keefe, David Marshall Grant
Director: Martha Coolidge

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and sensuality, and a scary fantasy
Run Time: 01h:55m:11s
Release Date: September 26, 2000
UPC: 026359129124
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C-D+B- A-

DVD Review

Three Wishes concerns the life of Jeanne Holman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), a young mother raising two boys, Tom (Joseph Mazzello) and "Gunny" (Seth Mumy), after her husband has gone missing in the Korean War. When she literally runs into a drifter named Jack McCloud (Patrick Swayze), injuring his leg, she takes Jack and his dog into her home while he recuperates. During his stay, the mysterious Mr. McCloud and his magical dog influence and transform the lives of the Holman family for the better.

Three Wishes builds its fantasy on a fairly strong foundation, with solid performances from the major cast members, especially young Mazzello and Mumy, though one-note supporting performances from David Marshall Grant as Jeanne's wealthy, presumptuous suitor and Diane Venora as her nagging sister dilute the naturalism somewhat. The film takes place in a homogenized 1950's tract-house community, nicely realized onscreen, and the period setting of the film helps to emphasize Jeanne's independence and confidence. A framing device featuring Michael O' Keefe as the adult Tom Holman establishes a context for the story's simple moral, and visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett contributes strong visuals to young Gunny's scary and euphoric fantasy sequences. Families will appreciate the film's PG rating and lack of seriously objectionable material.

So what's wrong with Three Wishes? It's hard to say—it's just one of those films that goes in one eye and out the other, entertaining enough in the watching but not particularly memorable. I think the film is somehow too heavy-handed, too manipulative—something bad must happen to each member of the Holman family so that something good can come out of it. Mr. Swayze's character is self-consciously ill-defined, allowing for a predictable climactic "surprise," and Ms. Mastrantonio is given lots of screen time but little to do as an indefatigable, strong-willed woman ahead of her time. And the plot seems driven by coincidence and the cinematic need for something to happen, rather than growing naturally from its premise. In the end, Three Wishes has something to say, but its message rings hollow—its earnest but clumsy attempts to inspire hope somehow backfire, leaving an unsatisfying emotional aftertaste.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: HBO presents Three Wishes in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, with a letterboxed, non-anamorphic transfer. Unfortunately, the disc appears to have been transferred from a rehashed laserdisc or broadcast video master, leading to significant muddiness, chroma noise, scanline evidence and other NTSC artifacts. Shadow detail is often dark, reds look oversaturated, and image defects show up often enough to be distracting. The image is otherwise stable, from a clean source print, but not up to contemporary DVD standards.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Three Wishes features four available soundtracks (not counting the commentary track), including English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DS2.0, with Stereo French and Spanish tracks. The character of all the soundtracks is similar—dialogue is centered, music occupies the front left and right speakers, and very little goes on in the rear channels, despite fantasy sequences that would have benefited greatly from surround effects. Frequency range is adequate, though lacking in deep bass, and dialogue and music are generally clear and well-separated. No complaints in this department, but nothing out of the ordinary either; bonus points for the foreign-language support.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Martha Coolidge
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:15m:11s

Extras Review: The disc certainly delivers in this area, with 23 picture-menu chapter stops, comprehensive subtitles in three languages, and an extensive set of substantial extras:

Alchemy - Making of Three Wishes:

This is a nicely-executed 18-minute documentary about the conception and making of the film, featuring interview clips of Martha Coolidge, writing/producing team Clifford & Ellen Green, stars Patrick Swayze and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and several other cast and crew members interspersed with clips from the film. It's interesting material, not the typical "sales job" piece by any means.

Deleted Scenes:

6 deleted scenes from the film are presented, with optional Director commentary. These scenes are all well-executed and contain some fine character moments, though no major revelations or alternate plot threads emerge.


The film's theatrical trailer and five TV spots are presented, preserving the film's marketing campaign for posterity, though the transfers appear to be from broadcast-quality videotape.

Director's Commentary:

Director Martha Coolidge contributes a fairly constant running commentary on the making of the film, with quite a few specifics on her directorial decisions and the film's structural challenges; her comments are a little dry, and a few anecdotes are also included in the Alchemy documentary, but the track is generally informative and honest.

Bios and Filmographies:

Well-written, multi-screen biographies and filmographies for 5 cast and 2 crew members.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Three Wishes is a well-meaning, stridently heartwarming fantasy that ends up being about very little at all. HBO's DVD features sub-standard video, though the extensive supplements are appreciated. Not highly recommended, but suitable for a family audience interested in something that's not strictly "kiddie" fare.


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