Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn.
Featuring the voice talents of Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Harvey Guillén, Niko Vargas, Ramy Youssef, Evan Peters, Jon Rudnitsky, and Della Saba.
Wish will follow a young girl named Asha who wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her.
Torn between wanting to decry Wish for being a cinematic stand-in of Disney patting itself on the back for 100 years of existence jokes and acknowledging that when something has been around that long, perhaps it is acceptable to allow some self-indulgent celebration that might come from a well-meaning place, that is nothing but a distraction from the real issue that, while enjoyable and fittingly filled with Disney references, this animated feature is stale and forgettable, embodying most of the problems that continue to plague their recent films.
These films seem to have fallen into a generic, uninspired routine: introduce a protagonist, then a lazily imagined magical world through a musical number (this time, it’s a Mediterranean island packed with diversity), and finally, some enticing conflict that never ends up going anywhere complex, considering the concept and characters end up feeling underdeveloped by the climax. There is a startling lack of emotional storytelling, rich characters, and catchy songs that have allowed Disney to stick around for the 100 years (and such a financially successful behemoth they will easily stick around for 100 more) being honored here.
Movies should rarely be directly compared to one another, but it’s frustrating watching Wish, where apparently no one working on the film has any clue how something as contemporary as Frozen ended up with instantly beloved songs that rose to the top of the cultural zeitgeist. Singing about the plot in a direct way that spoonfeeds the audience a story doesn’t make for something people will want to vocalize along to or curate into their wedding ceremony. Yes, Encanto had a popular song, and that’s not to say Wish doesn’t have anything attention-grabbing (the villain has a passable, upbeat, and nefariously energetic song), but there is a startling emptiness to the lyrics.
The story is similarly going through the motions, uninterested in expanding on any concept brought up, which is a deflating bummer for a film that views wishes and dreams as the most essential parts of ourselves and something never to give up or stop chasing. Here, wishes are given to the noble sorcerer Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine), who founded and runs the Mediterranean island, for safekeeping. Every month or so, he holds a ceremony where one of those wishes is retrieved from its bubble and is granted to an unsuspecting citizen who doesn’t remember what their wish was in the first place, which is part of turning them over to Magnifico.
Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) has her sights set on becoming the sorcerer’s next apprentice, also clinging onto the hope that after 100 years of existence, her grandfather Sabino (Victor Garber) will have his wish granted. The interview for the job begins smoothly, with the two connecting over their pasts, but not before quickly unraveling once Magnifico reveals that he perceives many of the wishes as vague and dangerous, including her grandfather’s goal of inspiring the people (theorizing that this could lead to a rebellion), and has no intentions of granting them. It’s a publicity stunt to maintain public favor, where he only grants harmless, pointless wishes.
This causes her to sing and wish upon a star, which creates a light so bright it temporarily turns darkness into daytime, also bringing forward a literal wishing star that enchants the environment, including gifting animals the ability to talk (most notably Disney voiceover veteran Alan Tudyk voicing an amusing three-week-old baby goat aiding Asha.) After revealing this and everything else she has learned to her co-workers inside the castle, Asha decides to pull off a heist, stealing her grandfather’s wish and returning it to him, insisting people should always be free to be ambitious and chase their dreams rather than giving it up and forgetting about it.
Again, that is a solid, creative plot that could have creatively worked in tandem alongside the endless Disney references (through dialogue and visuals), but directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn (and the screenwriting team of Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, with several other story consultants receiving credits) never bother building the world, layering these characters, or finding an emotional core. Even Magnifico, who could have been holding onto the earnest wishes for complicated reasons, swiftly becomes a generic villain embracing darker, stronger magic, much to the horror of his queen (voiced by Angelique Cabral), another nothing character.
Pandering to Disney fans with 100 jokes is the least of Wish‘s problems; this is an enjoyable, beautifully animated (blending 2D and 3D animation) journey that is narratively hollow.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com