FILM REVIEW — Wishing for a better Disney movie

Published 12:02 am Friday, November 24, 2023

“Wish.”

Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Chris Buck

Starring Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral and Victor Garber

Rated PG

2 ½ Stars

There’s something just a little bit off about Walt Disney’s latest animated movie, “Wish.”

On paper, it looks like it should be a huge hit. It comes from the producing team behind “Frozen.” It has charismatic actors in its voice cast. The story features a young heroine trying to do the right thing on behalf of the people that she loves. It even introduces us to not one, but two loveably funny sidekick characters.

Yet despite all of this, “Wish” never seems to gel into anything more than just another piece of typical family entertainment. That’s a disappointment, especially as the film is being positioned as a calling card for Disney’s 100 Year Celebration.

The story is set in a magical kingdom where residents willingly give the king (Chris Pine) their heart’s wishes when they turn 18. The wishes become glowing blue balls that float in a special room in the palace. Everybody loves the king, as he will occasionally use his magical powers to grant one of these wishes.

Everybody loves him except for Asha (Ariana DeBose) who thinks that the wishes should be returned to the people. One night in the forest, she makes her own wish upon a star, and a cute little star drops from the sky to help Asha on her quest. The problem is that the king can sense the power of this wishing star, and he is willing to do anything to bring its magic under his control.

That’s an atypically complicated story for a film that is aimed at families and their young children. Fortunately, the film turns into a simple struggle between Asha and her friends against the king, who is now being painted in a sinister green light. I say “most,” as the film spends a lot of time at the beginning telling us that the king is the greatest guy in the world, only to pivot and suddenly reveal him as the villain.

It doesn’t seem realistic that none of his subjects, including the queen (Angelique Cabral) realized that he was a power-hungry tyrant all this time.

It’s also a problem that Asha has to do her own abrupt change of heart about the king as well. She’s one of his biggest fans, until one scene in the palace and suddenly she’s staging a rebellion. Once again, it’s a bit too abrupt to be believable.

Perhaps the filmmakers were hoping that this change of heart would be better communicated through the film’s musical sequences. If so, it’s a losing strategy. The music is mostly forgettable. It does provide a few moments of spectacle, but there’s nothing here that kicks the film into the next gear.

On the positive side, I did enjoy the sidekicks, including a talking goat (Alan Tudyk) who is very witty, and of course, the wishing star that seems like a manga character at times. The star doesn’t speak, but its non-verbal squeaks are adorable. I’m sure there will be plenty of young kids asking Santa for a squeezable wishing star plushie this Christmas.

That might be just enough magic to get families out to see “Wish” over the holidays. It’s only in theaters right now, but it arrives with the feeling that this a disposable piece of entertainment that will be available on Disney+ very soon. My guess is that most people will think that “Wish” looks cute enough, but not so special that it’s worth a trip to the theater.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.