The hits just keep on coming for Disney – mere weeks after The Marvels crashed and burned at the box office, their latest animated feature does little to inspire confidence in their creative process. Wish, intended as a celebration for Disney’s centennial, is a fairly lame “princess” musical adventure with only one good song, forgettable characters, and an animation style reminiscent of Super Smash Bros for 3DS. I believe the intent was to have 3D characters in a watercolor background world, but it often just looks like it’s missing a rendering layer, or the motion smoothing effect was left on. Whatever it is, it doesn’t really work. Wish faces the same problem as every Disney release lately: the money isn’t on the screen.
Asha (Ariana DeBose) is a cheerful girl living on the island kingdom of Rosas. King Magnifico (Chris Pine), a powerful sorcerer, claims to be a benevolent leader protecting the population’s wishes. These wishes are glowing spheres that he removes from each citizen and keeps in his castle, causing people to forget their ambitions and depend on his kindness. He does grant one wish a month, but chooses the simplest and least likely to cause him problems. On her grandfather’s 100th birthday, Asha interviews to be Magnifico’s apprentice, but learns of his hoarding ways. She vows to free everyone’s wishes, but is branded a traitor and flees to the forest. There, she makes a wish on a star, who decides to drop down to earth to help her out.
An actual star, called Star, drops from the sky. He’s nonverbal and silly, playing with yarn and granting the forest animals the ability to talk. The forest animals are all of Snow White’s helpers, with a cameo from Bambi as well. Asha has seven friends, each representing one of the seven dwarfs. Star gives Asha a magic wand, putting her in the Fairy Godmother role, somewhat reluctantly. This is about the extent of homage, more distracting than cute. If this really is a celebration of Disney, why not go all in? Why doesn’t Asha end up in the sorcerer’s hat from Fantasia? Wish is simultaneously reverent and ignorant of Disney’s history, but at least there’s a real villain for the first time since Frozen. Not that his villain song is any good. Chris Pine tries his best, but Magnifico never feels like a real threat. This is possibly because understanding what a ‘wish’ means in this world is a little tricky, but once he starts sucking them up like souls you get it more. Sort of.
Overall, I just feel pity for Wish. Animation is one of the most unbelievable art forms, constantly sanded down by corporations and ignorant executives. Asha herself is an animator, drawing a flipbook of her goat, but that talent does not play into the narrative. If they really wanted to pay tribute to classic Disney, why wasn’t there a gruesome villain death? Magnifico doesn’t even turn into a dragon! I suppose if the intent was to make me want to go watch one of the good ones, then mission accomplished. Showing your child Beauty and the Beast on repeat is a far better plan than trying to wrap your head around Wish.
dir. Chris Buck & Fawn Veerasunthorn
Opens in theaters everywhere Wednesday, 11/22