Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Being released theatrically as the company celebrates its 100th anniversary, Disney’s latest, WISH, is a not very subtle homage to the illustrious and timeless classics they have given the public over the decades. When you see the movie’s title, don’t you automatically start to sing ‘When You Wish Upon A Star”, which garnered Disney its first Academy Award for “Best Original Song?” Motifs throughout this Film distracted me as they reminded me of their other movies in their catalogue. Yup, there are singing and dancing animals, a library reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast”, a flying celestial creature that will immediately remind one of Tinker Bell but it looks more like an Olympics mascot and I am convinced there was a brief appearance of Bambi’s doppelganger in the forest scenes.
Asha is a bi-racial teenager (voiced by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose) living in the kingdom of Rosas, ruled by the Sorcerer Magnifico (Chris Pine). Asha is getting ready for a job interview as the Sorcerer’s apprentice. Magnifico’s “gimmick” is that he has the power to grant wishes, which he does during grandiose ceremonies in the town square. When residents of Rosas turn 18, they relinquish their greatest dream in hopes that one day their benevolent leader will fulfill it. Asha wants her 100-year-old grandfather’s wish to come true, and, during her interview for the job, she tries to jump the queue and asks Magnifico to grant it. Then Asha becomes quite feisty (in true Disney form) and questions why all the wishes are kept in orbs that float above the conservatory and why grant only one wish at a time. This does not go well, and she is banished from the castle tower. After singing a song about wanting more for her and the people of Rosas, the aforementioned creature (named Star) appears and it’s now a quest to save the kingdom from the evil despot as Magnifico uses his magic to find and neutralize for Star. WISH is confusingly overplotted, yet somewhat predictable screenwriting.
Initially, I was dazzled by the Animation as it incorporated 3-D effects succinctly into the picture, but as WISH progressed, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the background scenes seemed to lack the complete finish. DeBose and Pine give vibrant vocal performances. Whereas there’s an overly bombastic “Les Miz” feeling to many of the musical numbers, I can listen to DeBose sing until the cows come home and Pine registers his singing chops with bravado and remarkable skill.
I am rarely disappointed with Disney’s animated features, but WISH had me wishing for more, especially taking into account the talent behind making this Motion Picture; Directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn respectively were the geniuses behind “Frozen” and “Raya and the Last Dragon”. That said, WISH deserves to be seen on a big screen where there’s enough amazing things to experience to make the trek worthwhile.
Walt Disney Studios Canada release WISH November 22, 2023.