Los Angeles Times

Wes Craven Presents Wishmaster

Monday September 22, 1997

     The joke goes something like this: Somebody rubs a lamp. A genie appears and says, "What is thy bidding?" or whatever. The lucky lamp-rubber says, "Make me a million dollars!" "Done!" the genie says and turns the guy into a pile of money.
     How funny this joke is--and you're giggling yourself hoarse right now, aren't you?--depends on what the poor sap wishes for; a cheese sandwich, a door, a contract. (Lenny Bruce once used malted milk in the punch line.) However this joke is played, it wouldn't seem that it could be the basis of a movie.
     But hanged if some people haven't gone and done that very silly thing with "Wes Craven Presents Wishmaster," a gross-fest designed to make you never again associate genies with Barbara Eden and Robin Williams.
     The genie--sorry, the proper name is "djinn"--lives in a ruby opal that's been stuck for several centuries in a statue of a sacred god. The statue breaks open, the opal is pocketed and soon finds its way into the hands of a gemologist (Linda Hamilton look-alike Tammy Lauren), who unwittingly stirs the djinn (Andrew Divoff) from slumber. (Guess how?)
     Once Mister Djinn is out of his glass enclosure, it's party time. He goads everyone he meets into making wishes he grants in the most elaborately brutal manner. For instance, some idiot comes across Mr. D. committing some atrocity. "I wish I didn't have to see this," he wails. You can imagine what the follow through is on this, given that Wes Craven is listed as executive producer.
     Some of these transformations are just as predictable and a tad labored. But give "Wishmaster's" makers a little credit for keeping things moving at a brisk pace. It would be nice to think that Craven helped with the rhythm, but my guess is his name is being used mostly as audience bait.
     The film is also certifying its schlock-shock pedigree with the presence of "Nightmare on Elm Street's" Robert Englund, who's not bad as a twitty gallery owner, and "Candyman's" Tony Todd, who deserved a better cameo than the bouncer he plays here. Some of the banter is clever, the effects are as gaudy and icky as you'd expect, and it's always nice to see a heroine like Lauren, who wears her pluck without resorting to whimper-whines.
     Otherwise, there's not much else to say except--dang! The folks in these movies sure smoke a lot of cigarettes, don't they?

Wes Craven Presents Wishmaster, 1997. R for horror violence and gore, and for language. Wes Craven Presents a Pierre David Production of a Robert Kurtzman Film. Director Robert Kurtzman. Executive producer Wes Craven. Producers Pierre David, Clark Peterson and Noel A. Zanitsh. Screenplay Peter Atkins. A Live Entertainment release. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Tammy Lauren as Alexandra Amberson. Andrew Divoff as The djinn. Robert Englund as Anthony Beaumont. Tony Todd as Security guard. Chris Lemmom as Nick Merritt.

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