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Disney Indulges Itself With a Big-Budgeted 'Wish' That Never Comes True

"I decide what everyone deserves!"

What do you get when you mix one of the largest media conglomerates with a pandering tale lacking gravitas, excitement, and worthwhile characters? Well, if you're unlucky enough to see the newest Disney adventure in theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday week, it might just be "Wish." A 95-minute $200 million animated commercial for a self-involved movie studio looking to its enthusiastic fanbase to pick up the check in celebration of 100 years on the market. The House of Mouse should go back to the drawing board.

"Wish" stars Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose as the voice of 17-year-old Asha, a girl living in the town of Rosas where King Magnifico (Chris Pine) rules with an iron fist. King Magnifico wields magical powers that equip the charismatic leader with the tools to grant the wishes of his loyal subjects, though, behind the scenes, he's a madman who enjoys not granting said wishes. When Asha discovers this part of the King's personality, she wishes upon a star (do you see where Disney is going with this?) to make her beloved Rosas citizens realize the King's ambitions and save the town from impending darkness.

In true Disney fashion, the animated characters within the film sing to their heart's content, providing some outstanding musical numbers that rival any animated musical in recent years. The songs, written and scored by "Frozen" alumni David Metzger, Julia Michaels, and Benjamin Rice, are gorgeous and expertly delivered. A soundtrack can uplift a movie and give it an extra push towards a memorable direction. But try as "Wish" does to do just that, it fails spectacularly.

To say that the premise within "Wish" is flimsy is giving too much credit to the writers Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore. The movie drips with success from the top down, with the filmmaking team behind "Frozen" and "Tarzan" taking a leap of faith in another Disney endeavor. But this time, Asha's plight and dedication to her friends, her pet goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk), and her 100-year-old grandfather (Victor Garber) are met with eye rolls from an audience that should be way more entertained.

100-year-old grandfather…Disney celebrating 100 years…hint hint.

Every character on display in "Wish" is modeled after one from previous Disney incarnations. Asha's seven friends represent the seven dwarfs from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the most obvious example. King Magnifico is simply Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty," fitted with green light and magic throughout. It becomes glaringly apparent within a few minutes, after an introduction telling Asha's backstory through old-school Disney storybook themes, that "Wish" is nothing more than a Ron Burgundy scene straight out of "Anchorman." It's almost as if one could hear a voice shouting, "Hey everyone, come and see how good I look," as the characters embody the temperament of hitting you over the head with Disney references.

If it was something similar to "Anchorman," where everybody is in on the joke, then "Wish" might be more compelling. However, it doesn't seem that Disney understands precisely what it's doing to its audience by pandering to their nostalgic senses and creating a story that appears to be slapped together with weird animation, not befitting one of the most successful studios in motion picture history. The combination of watercolor and computer animation is treacherous territory that makes for an unappealing look. Maybe if the animation was streamlined and the songs spoke for themselves, the blatant self-promotion of "Wish" could be disregarded.

Alas, the "wish upon a star" theme takes over so much that it's quite distracting. I lost count of how many times the word "wish" was used in the film, but let's just say it's staggering. No part of "Wish" remains subtle, and DeBose's stellar renditions combined with Pine's impressive voice work can't save a weak premise built upon self-promotion.

Though there will surely be an audience of youngsters that soak up the splendid tunes and classic fairytale tropes of "Wish," the movie delivers in a way that Disney used to with its straight-to-VHS sequels with off-brand humor, inconsistent animation, and low-budget obstacles.

Ticket Rating: 🎟1/2


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