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‘Wish’ a disappointment for Disney’s centennial

Jack Travis

Wish is set in a magical island kingdom somewhere in the Mediterranean ruled by a magical king named Magnifico (Chris Pine). Everyone who comes to live on the island surrenders their greatest wish to him for “safekeeping,” and a few times a year, he even grants random people their greatest desires. The chance to have their wish granted only attracts more people to the island from all over.

Asha (Ariana DeBose) is a 17-year-old girl who seeks to become the king’s apprentice in wish magic. Everything seems to be going great until she realizes. . . he’s not exactly a good guy, holding the wishes of everyone hostage in order to solidify his rule over the kingdom.

Desperate to free everyone’s wishes, Asha makes a wish upon a star in the night sky. And a literal star flies down to the island, armed with powerful magic, in order to help her quest.

Together with Star and her talking goat, Valentino (Alan Tudyk), Asha hatches a plan to return everyone’s wishes as King Magnifico turns to forbidden sorcery to stop her.

All of that sounds like a promising story, but Wish is actually more interested in spending 95 minutes reminding viewers of Disney’s greatest hits. In just half an hour, audiences are peppered with so many callbacks to better Disney films that they’ll be rolling their eyes, feeling assaulted by the intended nostalgia.

The House of Mouse absolutely wastes Pine, shackling his charisma and any potential silliness to bland writing. The film sentences him to a backstory with more holes than Swiss cheese, and the gaps in logic don’t end with him.

Wish is filled with forgettable songs and unremarkable lyrics that want to seem much grander than they actually are. Its story is tired. Audiences are exhausted by magical kingdoms and the cliches that have made Disney great over the last century.

And the one thing Disney should excel at, the art, is such a misfire throughout this picture. Flat backgrounds intended to look like a storybook do not blend well with the 3D characters dancing around. Singing trees in the forest look half-finished, and the characters themselves often seem more like they belong in a Kingdom Hearts game rather than a centennial celebration from Disney.

So when Wish fails to inspire audiences with its music, its animation, and its story, what’s left to appreciate? The dozens of callbacks to hit movies that serve as bludgeoning reminders of the past rather than cheeky Easter eggs?

Perhaps the film wouldn’t suffer so much if it had instead been relegated to an animated short on Disney+. Expectations would be lower, and the writing could be forgiven for so many holes and unanswered questions. Wish feels thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

Any number of improvements could have made this a better movie, setting Pine free to be a massively silly villain who hams up the screen, fleshing out the hero and giving her some semblance of a backstory, or even committing to the studio’s past by returning to traditional 2D animation for a change.

Oh well. . . guess everyone will see this on Disney+ soon enough.

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Courtney Lanning is a film critic who appears weekly on <i>Ozarks At Large</i> to discuss the latest in movies.
Kyle Kellams is KUAF's news director and host of Ozarks at Large.
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