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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Wishman': The Magic Needs Some Uncorking

July 30, 1993|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Wishman" (Laemmle's Sunset 5) might have seemed like a good idea in the planning stages. A genie who has lost his bottle wakes up in Beverly Hills and is mistaken for a homeless person. Can he get his bottle back before he wastes away?

For this flimsy whimsy to work you'd need a magic touch, and magic is in short supply here. (The writer-director is Michael Marvin.) Watching this film is like watching a card trick that never comes off. It's genial but oh so minor, and one gathers it's been marinating on the shelf for awhile. When the genie (Geoffrey Lewis) revives and asks his newfound scavenger buddy (Paul Le Mat) what year it is, the answer comes back: "It's 1991."

Most movies don't deal with homelessness at all, so the fable-like treatment it receives in "Wishman" (Times-rated Family) is a mixed blessing. The sappiness undercuts the reality. Le Mat is a genial presence, as usual, and, in a supporting role, Brion James, playing a Vietnam vet, has some raucous moments. As the genie, Lewis wants to be a good-time-Charlie sorcerer, but his bad-time dialogue doesn't help. There's a subplot involving a Beverly Hills damsel in distress that doesn't help, either.

Some things are best left bottled up.

'Wishman'

Paul Le Mat: Basie Banks

Geoffrey Lewis: "Hitch" Hitchcock

Brion James Staten: Jack Rose

Paul Gleason: Silverstein

A Monarch films release. Director Michael Marvin. Producer Lon Tinney. Executive producers John Paul De Joria, Curt Hendrix. Screenplay by Michael Marvin. Cinematographer Steve Shaw. Editor John Orland. Music Bob Christianson. Production design Rand Sagers. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.

Times-rated Family (mild violence).

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