Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Wish - Review


100 years ago, one of Hollywood’s titan studios was created, and since then, audiences have been gifted with decades upon decades of classic animated features and magical storytelling. To celebrate such an occasion, Disney has brought us their 62nd feature length animated film, Wish, a film meant to celebrate the magic of their animated catalogue. Now if only the film could measure up to even those good entries in the canon, let alone reach the heights of the greatness that Disney once stood on. 

Young Asha (Ariana DeBose) makes a wish so powerful that it's answered by a cosmic force, a little ball of boundless energy called Star. With Star's help, Asha must save her kingdom from King Magnifico (Chris Pine) and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

That initial reaction might seem harsher then it’s meant to, but the reality isn’t far off. Whereas the animation giant has so often captured the minds of children and adults a like with their likable characters, heartfelt stories and, more often than not, catchy musical numbers. For Wish, it does have a likable lead in Asha and a passable side kick in the adorable (and merchandise gold mine) Star, but its story and musical numbers leave a lot to be desired. 

By now, most everyone has heard at least a snippet of the one good song in the film “This Wish”, aided immensely by the vocal talents of Ariana DeBose. The rest are immediately forgettable and, at times, painful. But credit where it’s due, they’ll likely continue their streak of Oscar nominated songs meant to be belt by their uber talented lead, while the rest will be buried in various Disney playlists for years to come. 

And again, Asha as a character is pretty fantastic. Ariana DeBose feels perfectly cast for the tone and spirit of the character, and with a better story, could easily be one of the better new Disney characters. Even Chris Pine as King Magnifico has potential. He borders on the kind of evil that you want in a Disney animated flick, but it’s almost as if the creatives are too scared to commit to making him this pure evil, dastardly being until it’s too late. This is all made even more frustrating by the lackluster villain song that might be the biggest letdown of it all.

The design of the film makes sense on paper, its meant to emulate the watercolor past of Disney, complete with the unique textures for the backgrounds and characters themselves. It’s a great concept, but it doesn’t work in execution. The results instead feel half-rendered, as if the film was running behind and everything was rushed to make the release date. Some shots work with the concept of course, particularly the wide shots meant to capture a full watercolor painting look, but the overall aesthetic just doesn’t look good.

WIsh is fine. It’s a letdown, but also not surprising with the year Disney has been having that their big celebration of their history feels flat. And we’ll be forced to wish it was all just a better experience.

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