Taking on the System
When Missy Chandler's (Anna Chlumsky) knee swells up during sports at school her mum takes her to the doctors who is concerned enough to do a biopsy. It is the start of a nightmare as Missy is diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer which requires plenty of treatment. Naturally Missy's parents Joanna (Tess Harper) and Ed (John Ritter) want to be there for not only Missy but the rest of the family but running Missy back and forth to hospital causes Ed to take time out from where he works as a car salesman and the stress of everything leads to him collapsing. It eventually leads to Ed's boss firing him and now without a wage things get even more desperate and stressful. Angered by what happened and a law which allows it to be happen Ed takes things to the top to get the law changed so others don't suffer what their family has to go through.
First things first and it is worth knowing that "A Child's Wish", also known as "A Fight for Justice", is based on the combination of two true stories, those of Dixie Yandle and Melissa Weaver. And secondly this made for TV movie marks the first time that a serving President has appeared in a movie playing himself with scenes of Bill Clinton shot inside the real Oval Office. Those are the two things people seem to look for when searching for information on "A Child's Wish", what true story is it based on and was that really Bill Clinton in the Oval office.
So with that out of the way with what we get in "A Child's Wish" is what I call a fighter movie where someone takes on the system which puts them at a disadvantage. As such whilst part of the movie is about Missy's battle with cancer which initially sees her having her leg amputated the real focus is on Ed being fired by his boss due to taking so much time off to care for Missy and the rest of the family. And in the detail it is kind of nicely done as whilst we see it as an injustice that Ed is sacked and see how things pile up such as the premium increasing on the medical insurance we also get to see that his boss at the time was making a business decision which without the passing of the Family and Medical Leave Act was entitled to do so for the good of his business.
Now I said the detail is there but "A Child's Wish" only scratches the surface, allowing you to see things on a simple level such as how after losing his job Ed found it difficult to find work and was forced to trade his car in for a cheaper one. At the same time Missy's cancer journey is hinted at so we get things such as after the amputation of her leg we see her come round and already have a prosthetic fitted. The reason for this is because "A Child's Wish" is not about the grit but about the emotion, the feeling of injustice when Ed is fired for caring for his family and the feeling of injustice that a young girl like Missy should have to go through cancer. Which allows for the sense of power when Ed takes his fight for injustice to the top. But in doing so there are far too many scenes which over play things to manipulate your emotions especially when Ed gets what I can only call a "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" moment as he makes a speech about what is right.
What this all boils down to is that "A Child's Wish" tells a good story and features a likeable cast with both Anna Chlumsky and John Ritter gaining are sympathy without having to do much. But it is a movie which delivers far too many scenes of emotion manipulation and it spoils the natural power of the story when it forces the emotion and pours on a bit too much sugar coating in places.