Martin Short stars as Murray, the only male graduate of Fairy Godmother school (and that just barely). He's a complete klutz, and seems to be missing a few brain cells here and there. However, the Fairy Godmothers are desperate, and he is assigned a district in Manhattan. His first assignment is to grant the wish of precocious little Anabel (Mara Wilson), who only wishes her dear actor father (Robert Pastorelli) would land the lead role in the new broadway muscial version of A Tale of Two Cities.
Unfortunately, Murray doesn't know he inherited his godmother-route and wand from defrocked Fairy Godmother-turned-witch, Claudia (Kathleen Turner). Claudia hopes to corner the Fairy Godmother market by stealing all the Godmothers' wands. Murray's is the last, and most precious, one for her to claim.
The film has a talented cast, but it doesn't use them well at all. Martin Short, whose physical comedy attempts usually generate at least a small amount of humor, is truly awful here. The drawn-out opening scene, of Fairy Godmother school final exams, is a brutally unfunny example. (A similar testing-gone-awry scene is done with much greater humor and effect in Men in Black.) Martin Short, good as a character actor, hasn't proven he can carry a movie, and certainly doesn't here.
Kathleen Turner just simply isn't that menacing a villain. The film goes to some fairly unimaginative lengths to explain why, with all her witchy powers, she needs the magical wands. However the film never explains why, aside from a few special FX showcases, she simply doesn't use them to get rid of Murray (like she does with another Fairy Godmother). I guess there wouldn't be a movie then...but that would be a good thing.
Mara Wilson is tolerable as Anabel, but her brother Charles (Francis Capra) is another story. Bad in Kazaam, Capra is even more irritating here. Someone desperately needed to write his character out of the script. Robert Pastorelli is okay in his few scenes, and his ridiculous Two Cities musical looks like it would have been a better film than this one.
The special effects in the film aren't all that magical. The best one is a computer-generated mouse, which is kinda cute. The rest: flattening spells, frog spells, putty spells, etc. aren't bad, but in an era where every other film has great special effects, not bad just doesn't quite cut it.
Although there is some talent in A Simple Wish, none of it shows on screen. Wish for something else.