One hates to criticize such a well-intentioned project, but “A Child’s Wish,” while offering strong perfs from John Ritter and Anna Chlumsky, as well as a smooth cameo from President Bill Clinton, is merely an average made-for meller. The story of the Chandler family is a compilation of two families’ stories and how those families sparked the Family and Medical Leave Act, which Clinton signed into law last year. A good cause, but this telefilm’s politics are played out against a world in which everything is either good or bad, black or white, undermining its credibility, but the affecting Chlumsky and Ritter infuse “Wish” with real humanity.
High schooler Missy (Chlumsky) is a vivacious, athletic and smart teen with dreams of attending Yale. Her mom, Joanne (Tess Harper), and dad (Ritter) live in a lovely old house and they all seem to lead perfect, carefree lives.
But when Missy complains about a leg pain, tests reveal that she has cancer, but the family’s relieved — they have good insurance.
When faced with the intensity of the treatments that Missy must go through, Joanne quits her job to devote all of her time to her daughter. Being a man of the ’90s, Ed starts to work more O.T. and helps out with his daughter as much as he can. Which is a lot; so much that he puts himself into the hospital, suffering from exhaustion.
But the family still has insurance, until Ed’s unfeeling boss, noting Ed’s absences and escalating insurance claims, fires him.
The family figures out a way to get by, and Missy, now terminally ill, gets to visit Washington and meet Clinton, all arranged by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Basically, this is a well-made melodrama disguised in its second act as a paid political ad. It seems writer Susan Nanus wanted to script a family-dealing-with-cancer telepic, but then realized that she had to fit in the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as a lot of “Missy Chandler Goes to Washington.”
But parts are affecting, as Ritter and Chlumsky temper sentiment with humor.
Camerawork by Henry Lebo is lovely, and excellent use is made of the D.C. locations.
Note to Clinton: You’re a natural onscreen, and should think about entering the acting world after your second term is up. Kinda like the anti-Reagan.