Movie Review: Wish
More than 70 years after Disney had a cricket sing about wishing upon a star, Wish picks up that theme in an animated movie that desperately wants to thaw out some of the studio’s Frozen magic. Hailing from members of that movie’s creative team, Wish doesn’t quite reach the stars, but it does shine intermittently while introducing another plucky teenage female heroine, gamely voiced by Ariana DeBose. Despite plenty of original songs (courtesy of Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice), Wish doesn’t feature the kind of showstopper that had everyone who saw Frozen letting go or Encanto not talking about Bruno.
The movie does, however, celebrate the power of wishes and in the process, decades of Disney history. Whether that sort of pleasant but unspectacular production can rekindle box-office magic remains to be seen, but like its predecessors, it’s destined to enjoy a long shelf life.
Set in the fictional kingdom of Rosas, the movie features DeBose (an Oscar winner for West Side Story ) as Asha, a 17-year-old girl who – like her
contemporaries – yearns for nothing more than to serve the dashing King Magnifico (Chris Pine). Loved by his people, he uses his magical powers
to both protect them and periodically grant wishes at a ceremony.
After meeting the king, however, Asha realises that his seemingly benevolent actions actually rob his subjects of what’s most precious to them, an
awakening that prompts her to wishupon a star, only to be surprised when the little round-faced fellow – clearly designed to sell about a million plush toys – plummets to Earth, bringing wondrous magic with it.
Directed by Chris Buck (Frozen) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (Raya and the Last Dragon), from a script by another Frozen alum, Jennifer Lee, and Allison
Moore, Wish contains a traditional dollop of anthropomorphic cuteness (the aforementioned Star and Alan Tudyk’s little goat Valentino), which should appeal to younger kids. That said, the movie’s strongest asset lies in Magnifico, who recalls some of Disney’s grand sorcerer villains, with Pine portraying him as both regally self-absorbed, and genuinely malevolent in denying the residents of his kingdom free will.
That concept pays off in a strong climactic sequence that elevates the movie and even has something rather profound to say. Until then, it’s an amiable animated diversion if one that feels a little too self-conscious about checking off the anticipated boxes without bringing much new to them.
Disney has experienced a rough year at the box office, with even Indiana Jones and The Marvels falling well short of expectations. Notably, one of its bright spots, Pixar’s Elemental, also came in the realm of animation, reflecting that families are still eager to find such alternatives. By that measure, Wish mostly delivers – a credible addition to Disney’s long filmography, even if it’s not exactly a dream come true.