A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story
|     In 1995 this made-for-TV movie was created from Annette Funicello's dictated memoir. The movie has never been released to video or DVD, but home-made copies of it are passed between collectors.
The movie closely follows the book's interpretation of Annette's life, excluding and compacting events for time constraints, and taking some dramatic license with others, in an attempt to build interest.
The screenplay emphasizes the tie between Annette and her mother as the paramount relationship in both their lives. Others (Joe Funicello, Walt Disney, Dick Clark, Paul Anka, Glen Holt, etc) come into the limelight briefly, do their little bit, then exit quickly, so the all important mother-daughter bond can be re-established. This aspect of the movie is probably very close to reality; The Annette Funicello Story is just as much the Virginia Funicello story. She is a stronger, more determined character than her daughter, and in some ways, more interesting, though she lacks Annette's charisma and sympathy.
The makers of this movie had two major challenges to overcome, and were partially successful with only one of them. The first challenge was casting; how do you find someone to take the place of an American icon, particularly in a movie made, and largely cast, in Vancouver, British Columbia? Though actress Eva LaRue is equal to playing a sort of Annette-lite as an adult, it is the teenage Annette that defies substitution. Perhaps realizing they could find either a physical match, or an actress capable of playing the part, but not both, the producers chose to go with the latter option. Andrea Nemeth is a talented actress, but she is the sort of girl teenage boys would actually take to the prom, while they are really dreaming of Annette.
The second major challenge for the writers was how to keep viewers interest in a story, that by Annette's intentional design, deliberately avoids conflict and confrontation. Fast cuts and an avalanche of name-dropping was their solution, at least until they could get to the point in Annette's life where her illness takes over. Annette's romances, career, marriage, divorce, even her horrific eye-injury in the seventies, all pass in a flash.
Throughout the movie, the real Annette acts as occasional narrator, telling her story in a halting voice to children assembled for her daughter's wedding. For fans of the Mickey Mouse Club, that part of Annette's life sweeps past in just under fifteen minutes. Of the living Mouseketeers, only Cubby is depicted. Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams are represented, and the names "Lonnie" and "Sharon" are mentioned, but the other mice in this movie are generic extras, with in-joke names like "Skippy" and "Arlene".