We review Wish, the latest from Walt Disney Animation, starring Chris Pine, Ariana DeBose, Victor Garber, and Alan Tudyk
PLOT: When a young woman discovers that the wishes of her community are being destroyed by an egomaniac ruler, she must try and create a little magic herself to bring joy to everyone.
REVIEW: “When You Wish Upon A Star” is a song that has become a staple for even the slightest inclusion of Disney in their lives. It’s impossible not to be able to recognize the iconic tune featured in the animated classic Pinocchio. Initially performed by Cliff Edwards, the music has become a signature for everything Disney. And with the current 100-year celebration, Walt Disney Animation is bringing audiences their latest big-screen musical adventure, the appropriately titled Wish. The Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn-directed feature is a joyful, sweet, and engaging tale; although wishes may not come true for all audiences, it sure did for the audience I saw it with.
Wish tells the story of the magical town of Ramas. It’s a happy place where the gracious ruler Magnifico (Chris Pine) brings their wishes to life. Do you want to fly? Sure, he can make that happen. For Asha (Ariana DeBose), the idea behind this beautiful city and its magical ability to bring wishes to life is perfect. However, that magic soon fades when she realizes the true nature of Magnifico. While he has the power to bring the townsfolks’ desires to fruition, he also uses that power to erase any semblance of their dreams from existence. It is up to Asha and her friends to expose Magnifico’s dastardly deeds and bring magic to the townspeople.
Wish is something unexpected for this viewer. Having appreciated the blockbuster charms of Frozen, and especially the ridiculously enchanting Tangled, I was curious to see what 100 years of Disney was going to bring fans. Having had an early preview of the film, I knew going in that I appreciated some of the songs, including “This Wish,” “Welcome to Rosas,” and “This Is The Thanks I Get?” and I was already interested. The music and score in Wish by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice bring energy and heart to the feature. The musical elements present a terrific power that the impressive Ariana DeBose beautifully supports, and Chris Pine brings his excellent vocal chops to the character.
The story, from a script by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, keeps this tale simple. You could say too simple. All Asha wants is the chance for her community to see their wishes come true. Whether it’s greed or a thirst for power, Magnifico has no intention of allowing all his followers to have that opportunity. He is a compelling villain, and Asha is a terrific lead. Yet, the script only partially matches the power of the performances or the musical elements. The heavy dose of nostalgia and the impact of the more fanciful factors may only connect with some viewers. However, the classic Disney cameos and the hints at nods to Disney tropes like talking animals and objects were a treat. At least for this viewer.
The look of the film celebrates the past as well. The soft colors that fill the background and the old-fashioned nature of the visuals may take some time to adjust. Your enjoyment of this spectacle will depend on how cynical you feel about Disney creating a cinematic jolt of nostalgia. Even before I sat down in the theatre, I was aware of this. Wish put me in a mood where I appreciated the history behind the animation giants. Yet, at times, it does feel slightly heavy-handed in its reminder of the magic of Disney. Especially the wishing on a star aspect. Even still, the focus is on community. And a Disney heroine who is more interested in helping others instead of just finding her “prince” is nice.
Wish is a beautiful film with a lively soundtrack and excellent performances from the cast. I should have mentioned that Alan Tudyk – voicing a little goat named Valentino – is a scene-stealer. The man is always terrific, and he brings the humor here. Wish may go overboard on the nostalgia, but it ultimately worked. It’s easy to root for Asha; I also found Chris Pine as exceedingly enjoyable as the power-hungry Magnifico. Wish brings a bit of joy and escape to theatres. The script may rely too much on the past 100 years, it still brings us new and memorable Disney characters. It may not have the impact of Frozen, but Wish is a delightful adventure for the family to experience.