REVIEW BY GUEST WRITER KACKIE L. SAUNDERS
SETTING: Interstate 60
A young man named Neil is sitting with one of his friends, asking if he ever noticed that Americans don’t have any legends about people that grant wishes.
An older man overhears them talking, and walks to them. He tells them that there is indeed someone that grants wishes in America someone named O.W. Grant… who is half-leprechaun. “You won’t find him, he’ll find you,” the man tells them both. “He likes to play tricks… but sometimes, if he likes the person, he’ll play it straight.” The man goes on to say that O.W. Grant wears a red bow tie, and smokes from a pipe that looks like a monkey head… and he travels along Interstate 60. After the man walks away, Neil and his friend look at a map.”A guy with a red bow tie?” they laugh. “There’s no such place as Interstate 60!”
In the next scene, a man with a red bow tie is riding a bicycle, smoking from a strange pipe that looks like it has a monkey’s head carved into the front. He comes around a corner, and you can see an expensive-looking car parked on the side of the street. Inside is Mr. Baker, who’s talking on his cell-phone, wearing a black suit, blue dress shirt, and dark blue tie.
“Well, get him on the phone, it’s critical,” he’s saying into his phone, and he opens his door. The man with the red hair plows right into the open door. Mr. Baker gets out, and hurries over to him. “I’m sorry, Mr., I didn’t see ya!” Mr. Baker says, moving the crashed bike out into the middle of the street, and then picking up the red-haired man by the seat of his pants, and pulling him behind the car. In the process of getting the red-haired man to the back of the car, Mr. Baker drops his phone, and the man realizes the jaw of the monkey on his pipe has broken off.
Just then, a huge Mack truck drives by them running over both the cell-phone and the bike. Mr. Baker’s jaw drops, and the red-haired man shouts, “My bike!” Mr. Baker stares at the destroyed bike for a few seconds, and then reaches into his pocket for his wallet.
“I’m sorry, I’ll pay for it,” Mr. Baker starts to say, but then sees that the Mack truck splashed water on his expensive suit. “Ahhh, my suit is wet!” he whines loudly. He bends down, seeing his cell-phone on the ground. Even as he picks it up, it falls apart in his hand.
“Things like this always happen for a reason,” the red-haired man good-naturedly tries to assure Mr. Baker. “In my case, it’s probably just that I need a new bicycle.”
“Well, I for one, didn’t need this to happen to today!” Mr. Baker shouts back at him, throwing the phone down and stepping on it. He stomps his foot some more, punches at the air, shakes all over, and starts shouting curses at the other man. The red-haired man raises his eyebrows, and doesn’t say anything for a few seconds as Mr. Baker throws a huge temper-tantrum. Mr. Baker smashes his fist onto his closed car window, his face turns red, and he acts like he’s going to cry. “I wish this hadn’t happened to me!” he finally screams.
“Would you repeat that?”
“I wish this hadn’t happened to me today!” he shouts again, his face still red.
“Would you say then, that’s your wish?” the red-haired man calmly questions.
“You got that right!”
“All right, wish granted… Mr. Baker,” the red-haired man says, putting his pipe back in his mouth. Mr. Baker freezes, and suspiciously looks at him.
“How’d you know my name?” he asks, and the other man just winks at him. Green smoke comes from his pipe, and the scene darkens.
Next, you see the red-haired man, who we now know to be O.W. Grant himself, on his bicycle, smoking his pipe, and coming around that same corner. He stops just behind Mr. Baker’s car.
Mr. Baker is again sitting in his car. “Just put Wes on the phone, it’s critical,” he’s saying. He’s having trouble hearing, though, so he opens his car door again. He steps out into the street, trying to hear. “Look, speak up, will you? I can’t hear you!” he snaps at the person he’s talking to. Just then, O.W. watches the Mack truck approaching. Mr. Baker hears the truck, too, and looks up just as the truck hits him. O.W. winces and looks away.
“Some people just don’t know what to wish for,” O.W. says to himself, and then rolls his eyes.
Neil is sitting in his room, surrounded by his sketches and paintings, opening another letter from a college. He’s disappointed to see he’s been rejected again. His girlfriend comes into his room, and starts trying to analyze his mood. Neil seems a little less them impressed with her, truthfully. She notices he’s got a sketch of a blond-haired lady behind bars.
“I had a dream about her last night,” Neil tells his girlfriend. She launches into more theories about why he always dreams of the lady, and he wonders aloud if he should wear a tie to the birthday dinner his parents are having for him that night.
At the restaurant later, Neil is looking around the table at the people there. His parents first, his girlfriend, who we already know he isn’t so happy about, and his sister who is really the only one who understands him. His father gives him the keys to a car… something Neil is pretty sure he won’t like, since his father likes to give presents that he likes. Neil’s sister gives him some paintbrushes… something Neil actually wanted and could use.
When his cake is brought, he’s asked what he wished. A red-haired man dressed as the waiter is standing close to the table, listening in. Neil objects and tells them he can’t say his wish out loud. The waiter tells him that’s actually not true, that saying your wish out loud gives you a better chance of it coming true.
“Well,” Neil says, taking a deep breath, “I wished for… an answer.” The red-haired man seems pleased with this wish. He gives one of the candles to Neil, and in the next scene, Neil is standing outside, looking at the car his father bought for him. It’s a red BMW… and Neil likes blue. He pretends that he likes it, because his father is acting so excited about it. The red-haired man, O.W., is watching what’s going on from a distance. He blows more green smoke from his pipe, and it causes a bucket to fall on Neil’s head. Neil is knocked out, and when he hits the pavement, he drops his candle.
Neil’s mother, sister and girlfriend all gasp, pull cell-phones from somewhere, and dial 911 at the same time.
In the next scene, Neil wakes up in the hospital. The doctor that walks into the room is… Doc from “Back to the Future?!” Well, sorta. It’s Doc, but his name is Ray this time, and he’s wearing a green jacket. He tells Neil he needs to check to make sure he doesn’t have brain damage by showing him cards and asking him to identify them. Ray speeds it up, and Neil gets annoyed. Finally, he starts saying the names of the cards without really paying attention, and Ray stops. He shows Neil that he’d gotten them wrong. The cards had colors and shapes switched from what they usually were.
“Children get it every time, because they don’t depend on repetition as much as adults,” Ray explains to him, with a sly smile. He puts the cards up and leaves.
When the next doctor comes in, Neil asks him about Ray. “No one on our staff is named Ray,” the doctor says.
“He was wearing a green jacket.”
“No one in this hospital wears green, either.” Neil frowns to himself, wondering what’s happening to him.
His sister visits him in the hospital, bringing a thin-crust pizza; his favorite. She asks him if he’s going to just tell his father the truth he doesn’t like the car.
“I don’t know… it could hurt his feelings,” Neil sighs.
When he gets out of the hospital, he goes to see his dad at work. His father says he has great news for him. He can get into a law school, now, because Dad’s pulled some strings, made some friends, and it’s a one-time-only-offer. Neil’s not so sure if he should tell his father the truth… that he wants nothing to do with law school.
“What about my art, Dad?”
“Your art’s a hobby, Neil!” his father tells him. He points at a very strange, rather ugly painting hanging on his wall. It looks like a blind person splattered paint on a canvas without knowing what colors he was using. “Now, that’s art.”
Neil doesn’t argue with him, and just leaves. At a Chinese restaurant, he gets a fortune cookie that asks, “Oct. 15th. Are you sure?” He hands it to his friend. “This is so weird. Look!” he encourages. All of his friends tell him it’s blank. He takes it back… and it is blank.
That night, he drives to his job. He just loads boxes onto a truck; a job, he explains, that he got purely to annoy his father with. He sees the girl from his dreams on a billboard. One of his fellow-workers, Otis, suggests that he should go after the girl… to chase his dream.
There’s a number on the bottom of the billboard. He calls the number, and a voice tells him to come to a certain building, to a certain floor, and meet someone there.
When he gets to the floor of the building, and gets off the elevator, he sees Doc-Ray, I mean. Ray gives him a package that he’s supposed to deliver to someone named Robin Fields. She lives on Interstate 60… a place Neil has no idea how he’ll get to. It isn’t even supposed to exist, according to maps! He’s going to have to get it there within a certain time limit… and be careful. There’s a murderer loose.
As he’s driving, though, he pulls off on a street that isn’t shown on the map, and it hooks up to Interstate 60!
He picks up a hitchhiker just a few moments after he gets onto Interstate 60. Neil realizes it’s the waiter (and we know he’s the guy responsible for poor Michael J. Fox getting killed!) He introduces himself as O.W. Grant. The ‘O.W.’ part stands for ‘One Wish.’ He tells Neil a little about other people he’s granted wishes to… people who are just greedy and “gimme, gimme, gimme,” about things. He goes on to recount some of the awful things he’s done to people when he granted their ‘wishes,’ usually literally to what they said they wanted. (Kinda like Mr. Baker).
O.W. gives Neil a big black Magic 8-ball. “Is this guy joking me?” Neil asks it, and the answer pops up, “You’ll have to decide that for yourself.” This 8-Ball is about the coolest one anyone ever had, answering every question you have for it.
Neil asks O.W. if all of this is a dream. O.W. launches into a long spiel about how it could be several things: real life, a dream, or, Neil could be dead.
“If I’m dead already, then I can drive on the other side of the road, right?” Neil asks, and pulls over into the other lane. Suddenly, a giant truck appears and nearly crashes into him. Neil pulls back into his lane, and O.W. is laughing. (This guy has a thing with running over people with trucks, I think).
They pull into a small diner to get something to eat. Neil tells O.W. he’s an artist.
“Really? So am I,” O.W. announces. “In fact, one of my creations is coming in right…now.” A thin, older man walks into the diner just then, and comes to the front. He orders fifteen double cheeseburgers.
The waitress gives him a weird look and tells him he could never eat that much.
“Are they pretty big? How about an even dozen?” he suggests, just shrugging. People are snorting with laughter around him. “Or, maybe ten?”
“Are you drunk?” the waitress asks.
He agrees that his order was a little ridiculous, so he reorders. Probably more food, actually, this time: a B.L.T., fried chicken, several orders of fries, a salad, onion rings, two cheeseburgers, and a piece of every kind of pie they had. Now all of the people in the diner are making bets on whether he can really eat this much.
The food is all laid out on the counter, taking up just about all of the space, and the man asks for ketchup. Neil realizes this is something O.W. did, so he bets some of his own money for the man. Along with probably a dozen sodas, he eats everything, and in less then an hour. He seems quite proud of himself, everyone else is puzzled, and no one’s too happy about losing all of their money from the bet. Just before the man leaves, someone takes him by the sleeve and asks him how he did it.
“Well, to tell you the truth…” the man answers, and explains that once he had gone into diners and looked at the menus and wished he could order everything. He got his wish granted one day, he nods to O.W. as he says this and he got a black hole put in his stomach. Now, he can never get enough to eat, it seems like, and he has to eat that much several times a day to survive. It’s not all he thought it would be, and now he considers it more of a curse. The only way he can pay for all of the food is by winning bets people make on him, all over the country.
Neil thinks about this as he and O.W. leave the diner. He’s not so sure he likes what O.W. does to people. Somewhere down the road that night, they meet up with a frantic mother, looking for her son. Neil pulls over and offers to give her a ride, and O.W. gets out. He says good-bye to Neil, and walks away into the night. Neil drives the mother into a town with signs everywhere warning about how dangerous and addictive a certain drug is.
Neil switches the radio on, and hears a warning about the drug, again. There’s a really creepy feeling about this place, you can tell.
Neil takes her to a place that a bunch of people are going into, and Neil walks with her, deep into the building. Everyone is using the highly addictive drug, and offering it to Neil. The woman finds her son, who’s dancing and smiling, and acting happy.
“You ran away!” she accuses, but she’s glad to see him. He wants nothing to do with her, though. He pushes her away. The distraught mother goes with Neil to the police station, where a man explains to them what the drug is, and what it’s for. He tells them that if people hear about a drug that’s addictive and dangerous, they’ll want to try it. If they can get a hold of it, they’ll use it… and they’ll pretty much turn into mindless zombies. Just then, a girl stumbles into the room, cleaning things up as she goes. The man throws her a stick of the drug, and she immediately drinks it. She starts laughing and the man looks back at Neil and the mother. He’s proved his point; the people are like animals after they’ve had the stuff. They can be ordered around, and don’t care… as long as they have their drug.
“You can either forget about your son, or you can join him,” the police officer tells the mother, offering her one of the sticks. Her face is still tear-streaked, and she looks panicked. She hesitates, but then takes the stick from him. And, she drinks it.
The mother stands up and starts laughing, at seemingly nothing. Neil looks at her, and then back at the police officer. He’s offering him some, too, but Neil refuses. He gets up and leaves, probably really wanting to put this place behind him.
The next day, as he’s driving down Interstate 60, he pulls over. There’s another hitchhiker waiting for him. This man, Mr. Cody, is wearing an expensive suit and holding a suitcase. He says he doesn’t want to call what he’s doing hitchhiking He wants to ‘hire’ Neil to ‘work’ for him, for pay. Mr. Cody will pick all of the radio stations, initiate all conversation, etc. Neil shrugs and agrees to it.
Mr. Cody gets in, and turns the radio on. He starts shaking his head and pointing out every lie that the person tells. Then, he asks Neil if he ever thought about something: that all of the kooks and nuts in the early days of America would move west when they weren’t wanted where they were. They’d go farther and farther west.
“How do you think so many idiots ended up in California?” he concludes.
Neil pulls into a gas station to get some gas. While they’re waiting, a man approaches them with a “Will Work For Food” sign. Mr. Cody had just bought some food, so he takes an apple from his paper bag.
“You can work for me. Clean the windshield,” he tells the dirty man with the sign.
“I’m not cleanin’ that windshield!” the man answers.
“Well, your sign says ‘will work for food,'” Mr. Cody reminds him calmly.
“Not for just an apple!”
“It doesn’t say anything about a selected menu. You want food, you have to work for it, son,” Mr. Cody firmly tells him. Neil just wants him to give the guy the apple and be done with it, but Mr. Cody doesn’t want to do that. He pulls his suit jacket back, and shows everyone a bunch of dynamite strapped to his belt. “Now listen, I have terminal cancer, and I don’t mind goin’ out now… You decide if you go with me!” He pushes the button on a timer, that starts ticking down. Now the owner of the gas station, the man with the ‘Will Work For Food’ sign, and Neil are all panicking. “Wash that windshield!” Mr. Cody commands the guy with the sign. At the last second, the man agrees to.
Mr. Cody and Neil drive away with a clean windshield, but Neil is shaken by this. He asks Mr. Cody if he really would have killed them all, but as they’re talking, Neil relaxes and decides maybe he has more of a friend in Mr. Cody then he thought he had. Neil drops Mr. Cody off at his destination, and Mr. Cody says he was one of his best ’employees’ ever.
Neil stops next at an art gallery. A pretty lady (Ann-Margaret looks great for her age!) asks him if he’ll do her a favor, and she pulls him back into a room, away from all of the people who are marveling at the paintings hanging in the gallery. The lady gives him a paintbrush and has him stand in front of a canvas, and then has all of the other people come into the room.
“My son here has painted these replicas of the original paintings you saw a few moments ago,” she tells them, motioning around the room. There are paintings on easels all around the room.
The people suspiciously look at the paintings, commenting on how fake they look. “The artist would roll in his grave if he knew about this,” one says, pointing at a painting. They wrinkle their noses up, and keep saying things about the pictures. Once they all leave, the pretty lady, Mrs. James, thanks Neil for what he’d done. She explains to him that her late husband had always wanted to have some fun by making a museum with real paintings disguised as copies, and copies disguised as real. Indeed, it is funny to hear all of the people saying derogatory things about some of the pictures, just because they’ve been told they’re fakes.
Before Neil leaves, he asks the woman a little more about her late husband. She motions to the wall, where there’s a painting hanging up with a picture of O.W. Grant her ‘late husband.’
Neil gets back on the road, and comes to a billboard. One side shows the girl of his dream at a beach, and the other shows the girl of his dream with a heavy winter coat on. He’s supposed to go left, but he decides to go right… the five miles to where he thinks his girl is waiting for him. After all, he muses to himself, it shouldn’t take long to get there, and then he could get right back on the road, to deliver the package.
As he drives into the town, though, he finds himself in serious trouble: this is a town where everyone is a lawyer, and that means lawsuits and problems galore. Just for walking down the street the wrong way, looking at someone in a way they think they don’t like, talking to someone, running through a certain section of land, or other ridiculous things, you can be arrested.
Neil watches a jogger being written up for jogging through a ‘No Jogging’ section. A woman lawyer bumps into Neil, and offers to be his lawyer. When he tries to tell her she doesn’t need one, she tells him he could be sued for discrimination against a woman.
He’s really upset, confused and flustered by now, but he follows her back to her office. She then tells him he’ll be staying in jail until she can sort it all out. Neil looks out the window and sees an ambulance go by, with a group of men lawyers in expensive suits chasing after it.
Neil is taken to his cell, but when he looks out of the window, he can see the girl of his dreams in the distance, in another cell. His dream from the beginning of the movie makes sense now-the lady is indeed in jail.
When it’s time for trial, he calls for Mr. Cody as his witness, not any family member like the lawyers wanted him to call for. Mr. Cody shows up, ready to tell what’s lies, and what’s truth about the whole thing. He tries to tell them all they haven’t even investigated anything before throwing Neil in jail, and when they won’t listen, he stands up and shows everyone the dynamite he still has strapped to his belt. All of the lawyers are sweating now, and aren’t so sure they want to be accusing Neil of anything.
Mr. Cody keeps threatening them that he’ll kill them all if they don’t let Neil go. They agree to, and he gets the judge to write out a statement saying they hadn’t even investigated anything before accusing Neil.
When Neil gets out, he goes to find the lady he’s been wanting to meet for so long. When she gets out of her cell, though, she starts swearing at him and talking like a completely uneducated, rude creep. Neil is taken aback, and feels deflated. This is what he’d dreamed about?
He tells her he doesn’t like the way she’s talking, and she immediately stops, her face lighting up. She explains that she was testing him. She says that most of the other people she meets will just pretend they don’t mind the way she starts talking to them. Someone like Neil, though, doesn’t like it, and he says so. They are alike right away in that respect. As they walk outside, they find that they agree about much more then that. They both like thin-crust pizza, they like blue, and they would have gotten on the alien ship in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
She gets in his car, and they come to a fork in the road, and a motel. She opens a letter that O.W. had given her a long time ago, and it says, “Don’t go.” She feels very sorry, and saddened that she won’t be able to go with Neil. They stay at the hotel that night, and Neil asks his 8-ball of he’ll see the lady again. It says no, but he doesn’t tell her what it said.
The next morning, he hears a message on the radio that the murderer is loose, driving a red BMW convertible… which Neil happens to be driving. He gets pulled over, and a police officer looks closely at him.
“There’s a killer out, you know. He’s driving a red BMW convertible with a white paint stain on it,” the officer says to Neil, and looks closely at his car. No white paint stain. Neil sighs with relief as he drives away. He pulls into a gas station, and someone accidentally drops white paint on the back of his car. Now, Neil’s starting to panic.
He takes off at high speeds, trying to figure out what to do. He asks the 8-ball for advice, but he really has to use his own mind this time. He rolls his car off a cliff, and watches it crash. He never did much like that car anyway.
He turns around and looks down at a road, where a red BMW like his is being chased by police cars. The red BMW has a white paint splatter on the back, too.
Neil watches as it plows right into another police car, coming from the other way. The fireball that’s left really scares him, as he starts to realize what he’s seeing. He goes down to the accident’s scene, and asks someone who the person was who died.
“It was the murderer all right. Young guy-killed his father.”
Neil finally sees now what all of this has been. This has showed him, through all of the people, through all of the strange places, that he can’t just do whatever his father wants him to do. He had gotten his wish: an answer. An answer to his life.
If he had gone to law school, he would have eventually gotten so angry and frustrated with his life that he would have killed his father, and ended up dead from that accident. He could hold on, instead, to the things he knew he should do with his life. He could chase his dreams-like the lady that no one else had thought existed.
When he gets to the destination point, he’s surprised to find… Doctor Ray. Ray asks him if he wants to know what’s in the package. Neil shakes his head; he doesn’t need to, or want to, know anymore.
O.W. steps into view, and picks up the package.
“It’s for you?” Neil questions.
O.W. nods and opens the package… inside is a new monkey-head pipe, (remember, his old one was broken when he ran into Michael J. Fox at the beginning of the movie).
Suddenly, Neil is back at the hospital, waking up again. This time, the flowers next to his bed are from his friends on Interstate 60. His sister again comes into the room with a pizza for him. He again goes to see his father-but this time, he throws the keys on his father’s desk.
“Dad, what’s my favorite color?” Neil asks.
“Yeah, the car’s red. You can buy yourself a car next time,” he says. He goes on to say he will not be going to law school, and that he’s going to pursue his art. On his way out, he calls back to his father, “and Dad?” He points at the ugly painting on the wall. “That’s upside-down.”
His sister runs to him and tells him he won an art contest!
Later, he’s at an art museum, and a pretty, blond-haired lady walks up to him. She looks just like the lady from his dream… and they both have the strange sense that they’ve met before.
From a distance, Neil’s sister watches, while standing next to a smiling man… O.W. Grant.
–Kackie L. Saunders
All original text © Copyright by Kackie L. Saunders