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Movie Reviews

Wish ★★★



Directed: Fawn Veerasunthorn, Chris Buck

Cast: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Evan Peters

Released: 24th November 2023

Cornering the market on princesses, magical kingdoms and our earliest perceptions of happily ever after for generation after generation, it’s been one hell of a hundred-year run for Disney. To mark this centenary, it seems only fitting to release a new animated feature centred on their signature ‘when you wish upon a star’ notion. So arrives Wish, co-written by Frozen director Jennifer Lee, a sweet-natured tale that echoes some of the House of Mouse’s greatest hits but doesn’t quite succeed in forging a new classic worthy of its rich legacy. 

We meet Asha (Oscar winner Ariana DeBose), a 17-year-old girl living with her mother and grandfather in Rosas, a kingdom founded and overseen by King Magnifico (Chris Pine). After his early years were tainted by war, the king became a powerful sorcerer who could grant wishes. At the age of 18, the townspeople give their deepest wishes to Magnifico, who keeps them, causing the residents to lose all memory of their request. Select wishes are granted at ceremonies and only those the King deems non-threatening to himself and the order he’s established in Rosas. Asha comes to meet the King during an interview to be his new apprentice, hopeful that should she be successful, she can finally have her grandfather’s wish fulfilled. While the meeting initially goes well – despite Asha’s inherently likeable goofs – things turn sour when she learns that most wishes are held without the chance of ever being granted and without the ability to remember their desire, people are robbed of being able to work towards making their dreams a reality themselves. Later, voicing her frustration (through the medium of song, of course), Asha makes a wish upon a star, producing a cute little star companion and giving her pet goat a British accent in which to express himself. Together with her assortment of friends, Asha sets out to expose Magnifico’s secret and free the wishes of Rosas. 

Clocking in at a zippy 95 minutes, Wish is a whistlestop tour bearing all the Disney hallmarks. Decidedly more aimed at children, it’s a story with just enough comedic quips to entertain the little ones. Yet, as fitting as it is to have the film revolve around wish fulfilment, it will leave many wanting just a little more. The idea of hopes and dreams as something that drives us and their value – even if we don’t see them come to full fruition right away – is a worthy message but gets convoluted in some of the wish mechanics on display. We’re told people become ‘flat’ after having their wish taken, but this doesn’t seem to apply to everyone we meet, for example. DeBose was born to be a Disney princess, imbuing Asha with warmth, wonder, and a voice that’s truly beautiful to behold. Pine is also perfectly cast as Magnifico, with perhaps the only memorable song in ‘This Is The Thanks I Get’ and a delicious turn from control freak to full Maleficent. Both these characters have the makings of those who deserve to stand out and be enjoyed by the masses but are let down by a story that’s more concerned with retreading the past than showcasing what the vision of Disney means today. 

Wish is fine fairytale fluff buoyed by the performances of DeBose and Pine. With songs that feel passionate and stirring at the moment but won’t stand the test of time, it’s undoubtedly missing some of the magic. Yet across its hundred years, Disney has moved through countless phases, showing their ability to reclaim their power, and it’s my wish that they do so soon.

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