Review | Wish | 2023

In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish,” sharp-witted idealist Asha (voice of Ariana DeBose) makes a wish so powerful, it’s answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Artists lit the character in a way that makes it luminous—casting a glow onto the surrounding characters and environment. © 2023 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Billed as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney Studios, a kind of ultimate Disney movie, if you will, Disney's Wish is a massive disappointment on nearly every level. As a culmination of 100 years of animation, it's a complete and utter embarrassment, but it is also emblematic of the studio's current struggles, relying solely on nostalgia for previous films without ever really creating something that is compelling on its own terms.

It was fairly well doomed from the start - telling the story of Pinocchio's fabled wishing star that has become a staple of Disney lore in the decades since. The star is conjured by Asha (Ariana DeBose), an idealistic young woman living in the kingdom of Rosas, whose King Magnifico (Chris Pine) is a powerful sorcerer with the power to grant anyone's greatest wish. When she discovers that he is actually stealing people's wishes and robbing them of their hopes and dreams, she wishes for more for her family and for her people, and her wish is granted in the form of Star, an anthropomorphic star with the power to reclaim the wishes from the evil king and restore a sense of hope to the kingdom. 

The half-baked story attempts to shoehorn  in as many references to previous Disney films as possible, attempting to explain the origins of characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and even Zootopia. Wish is the Spider-Man: No Way Home of the Disney animated canon, an attempt to bind their films into one shared universe. It was cute when Beauty and the Beast's Belle wandered through the background of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or Rapunzel showed up in the crowd at the coronation of Queen Elsa in Frozen. Those were clever little easter eggs for the sharp eyed fan; but this mega-prequel feels like a contrivance of the highest order. It's as if the filmmakers started with these bullet points and then worked backwards to construct a story to fit them. It does not work. Star is a cute character and Alan Tudyk provides a few laughs as a talking donkey, but the film around them seems to be actively working against them, giving them very little to work with.

Wish is done no favors by a surprisingly bland animation style and a series of generic and unmemorable songs - there's no breakout "Let it Go" or "We Don't Talk About Bruno" to be found here. Every song feels designed to be a pop-showstopper but are instead weighed down by exposition. The fact that it spends so much time trying to explain itself should have been a red flag to all involved, but instead somehow this made it through multiple stages of development to become a major tentpole release honoring the studio's storied past. That is perhaps Wish's greatest weakness, much like the studio as a whole, it is too focused on what once was rather than charting a course toward what could be. It feels stuck in the past, trapped by its own limiting conceit, unable to break free of the manufactured nostalgia it's trying so desperately to peddle. Even as someone who feels genuine nostalgia for those films, Wish feels like it's simply trying too hard, and as a result it fails on nearly every conceivable level. It's just a feature length greatest hits reel that makes you wish you were watching something better.

GRADE - ★½ (out of four)

WISH | Directed by Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn | Stars Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber ,Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama | Rated PG for thematic elements and mild action | Now playing in theaters everywhere.


Popular Posts