Principal Cast : Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabrai, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Harvey Guillen, Niko Vargas, Evan Peters, Ramy Youssef, Jon Rudnitsky, Della Saba.
Synopsis: A young girl named Asha wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her.


Wish is a delight. Sure, it’s not very inventive, and probably borrows far too liberally from Disney’s back catalogue in terms of its narrative, and offers the most indifferent premise I think a Disney film has delivered to this point, but I had a good time with it. Celebrating the studio’s 100th anniversary, Wish boasts a definitively “dreams can come true” plot the studio was once derided for, a solid voice cast (Chris Pine is terrific) and a smattering of fun and funny supporting characters, but the lead female character needs a lot of work and comes across as fairly generic compared to the likes of Tangled’s Rapunzel or Moana’s… well, Moana. There’s a lot to like here, sure, and the animation is sublime once again, if only the nonsensical “wishing” plot was more specific and the motivations of the central villain not so ephemeral – at least the songs are catchy?

Set in the completely fictional Mediterranean island kingdom of Rosas, ruled by King Magnifico (Chris Pine) and his Queen, Amaya (Angelique Cabral), Wish tells the story of young Asha (Ariana DeBose) who dreams of having her grandfather, Saba (Victor Gerber), have his wish granted to celebrate his 100th birthday. Magnificico uses magic to take the wishes of the Rosas inhabitants and grant one every month, but when he neglects to grant Saba’s Asha becomes disenchanted and seeks out her own magic. She runs into Star, a celestial wish-giving being that puts her into direct confrontation with Magnifico, who sees his power being usurped. Angry, Magnifico invokes dark magic, striking a deal that will allow him near-limitless power to rule over Rosas, despite his subjects immense fear. It is up to Asha and her friends – as well as talking goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk) – to prevent Magnifico’s magic from destroying the kingdom.

Rooted in the tradition of longstanding Disney tropes, in particular wishing upon a star (Jiminy Cricket would roll over in his grave seeing how blandly Wish turns out in this regard), a young female lead must step up to defend her society and lifestyle against a ruthless enemy, although in fairness to Wish at least Asha isn’t a princess, and there’s no handsome prince anywhere to be seen. Frozen’s Jennifer Lee, together with Allison Moore, have crafted a piecemeal screenplay that relies heavily on trite convention and lacks freshness, a baseline heroine mixed with the usual anthropomorphic sidekicks (most of whom have the funniest beats) and a selection of “cool” supporting ensemble of friends, notably “the seven” palace workers Asha interacts with throughout – a tip of the hat to Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, right down to the personality types of all involved – and for the most part it works well enough despite not really being particularly inventive. The well-worn plot tropes manifest quickly, you can kinda guess where the story is going to go, and the revelation that Magnifico is actually the villain occurs way to early for my liking here, but kids will swallow this down like sugar. A veritable spoonful, perhaps.

Jokes fly thick and fast, there’s a lot of slapstick gags and terrific animation effects giving this a “fairy story” vibe we haven’t had since the first Frozen, and whether you find the story engaging or not there’s no denying the production values on Wish are superb. This is obviously a “no expense spared” film from Disney Animation, and it looks a million bucks, from the slick designs to the colour palette and the jaw-dropping textural advances. Yet it all wraps up a story to banal as to be thoroughly juvenile – perhaps that’s intentional, I suspect, given the stated ambition to rekindle the nostalgia of the Disney studio’s early golden age of filmmaking. Younger viewers will lap up the fast pace and breezy dialogue and snappy character beats, but adults will spot a lot of the plot mechanics as all-too-obvious and the well-worn clichés aren’t as amusing or subversive as the film might have you expect. It’s are for a modern Disney film to miss the mark when it comes for four-quadrant filmmaking, but Wish lands squarely in the realm of kid-friendly without being adult-friendly as well. Sure, it’s benign in every possible way, but as with contemporaries Dreamworks, Pixar and Sony Animation there should be something for adults to gristle into and, well, there just isn’t.

Far from disappointing, Wish is thoroughly entertaining and ticks most of the boxes you want ticked by a film from the Mouse House. The typically doe-eyed character design is starting to wear thin for Disney’s in-house animation style and I’d have liked to see the studio start to take some risks as we step forward into the studio’s second century, but on the whole Wish is as inoffensive as it is charming. Forgettable songs and nameless characters won’t engender a pop-culture footprint of any size whatsoever, but parents should have no qualms about dropping the tiny tots in front of this and leaving them to it.

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