Monday, March 4, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Wish’ Dazzles with Musical Numbers

Director: Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn
Writers: Jennifer Lee, Allison Moore, and Chris Buck
Stars: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, and Alan Tudyk

Synopsis: Wish will follow a young girl named Asha who 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, the new Walt Disney Animation Studios picture, is a warm and winning animated film that acts as an origin story for the studio’s legendary filmography. While incorporating classic Disney themes and clever nostalgia, Chris Buck (Frozen I and II) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (Raya and the Last Dragon) put a fresh spin on classic Disney themes, albeit with a wink at recycled material.

The story follows young Asha (Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose), a precocious 17-year-old wise beyond her years. Asha is celebrating her “Sabino’s” (Victor Garber) 100th birthday, as is her mother, Sakina (Natasha Rothwell). She’s young, energetic, and beloved by her community of Rosas. The young woman represents all the hopes and dreams of their family because, simply, they have none of their own.

That’s because a sorcerer King Magnifico (Chris Pine), manages everyone’s wishes and is in charge of whose very dreams come true. Luckily for Asha, she is interviewing for a job as his assistant. They immediately hit it off, having a natural rapport. However, Asha sees Sabino’s wish floating in the royal palace. She can’t help but ask the King if he could grant her grandfather’s Wish on his special day. However, Magnifico declines.

His explanation? Granting such a wish may be too much for the old man to handle and disrupt the peaceful balance of the community. As Magnifico says, “Imagine a place where wishes come true, where your heart’s desire can become a reality. What if I told you that place was within reach? All you have to do is give your Wish… to me.” It dawns on Asha that the ruler has no intention of giving back the wishes to Rosas, effectively never allowing people’s hopes to shape their futures.

Buck and Veerasunthorn’s film, with the help of a clever screenplay from Frozen collaborator Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore (Night Sky), takes off when it begins to act as an origin story for the greedy Mouse’s legendary filmography. For example, after Asha is dismayed by the King’s action, she, yes, wishes “upon a star,” causing a cosmic event seen throughout the kingdom. The result is an adorable ball of energy called “Star” that magically comes to life, shaking the lives of the Rosas community. Star begins to bring objects to life and allows animals to talk, like Asha’s beloved goat, Valentino, voiced by the scene-stealing Alan Tudyk.

The animation will be much talked about, with the filmmakers using digital techniques to give Wish a look of hand-drawn images (or storybook drawings) to evoke appreciation from diehard Disney fans. However, while the effort is appreciated, the visuals of Wish have a Saturday morning cartoon look that’s almost jarring initially until the artistry becomes whimsical. In an era of animated choices in the last few years, where studios mix and match styles and take bold chances, Disney has pandered and played it too safe here.

However, what Wish does have are some dazzling musical numbers. My favorite is Chris Pine’s thoroughly enjoyable “This is the Thanks I Get,” which is pure Disney magic. And, of course, the gifted DeBose’s show-stopping “This Wish” will surely bring goosebumps to diehards and casual fans alike. “A Wish Worth Making” is a worthy closing number for any Disney animated feature.
Wish isn’t a classic by any means, but it has a chance to develop a worthy following. For one, films with lasting legs are always defined by younger generations. And Disney fans will love the nods and origins of the timeless classics, which will bring generations together. Along with what I’m sure will be a massive sale of plush toy “Stars” in the future, Wish is a wonderful holiday treat for the entire family.

Grade: B

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