Disney’s new animated feature, Wish, is the movie equivalent of a theatre kid who has oodles of talent and simultaneously TRIES WAY TOO HARD. You can practically see the Disney team’s sweat and tears in every frame. All this palpable effort probably comes down to the fact that Disney’s dismal performance over the last year means Wish must be a hit, or Wall Street will throw a fit. So is it a smash? My best guess is…Maybe. Wish isn’t as infectious or as emotionally impactful as recent Disney blockbusters like Encanto or Frozen, but it’s every bit as good as Tangled. In short, I’d say this movie is a solid A-. It’s worth seeing…
Wish centres around a fictional island nation called Rosas. Run by a Very Handsome sorcerer king named Magnifico (Chris Pine), Rosas seems like a utopia when we first see it. The kingdom welcomes migrants from all over the world who live together in peace and harmony. The only catch? All citizens 18 and over are expected to hand over their hearts’ wishes to the king, who then decides whose wishes should be granted, and whose shouldn’t. Once you give Magnifico your wish, you won’t even remember it!
Perhaps you hope to become an acclaimed seamstress or a fearless night – you’ll never know unless Magnifico calls your name and one of his highly performative wish-granting ceremonies. And what most people don’t know is that Magnifico only grants the wishes he thinks are worthy. The cost of citizenship in Rosas is therefore a loss of control over one’s dreams.
Can anyone stop the nefarious Magnico from hoarding other people’s aspirations? Enter, Asha, played by the incomparable – and Oscar-winning – Ariana DeBose. At just 17, Asha hopes to become Magnico’s next apprentice. But when she learns the truth about how Magnifico has no intention of granting the majority of his citizens’ wishes, Asha changes her aspirations. Instead of joining Magnifico, she plans to defeat him and free the wishes of Rosas. Asha embarks upon her quest with the help of her seven teenage best friends (yes, they are patterned off of Snow White’s seven dwarves) and a team of enchanted woodland creatures like a deer named Bambi (more references!).
If the plot sounds convoluted, it is. There’s a ton of expository dialogue throughout, and even then, it’s easy to forget key details about how Magnifico presides over his people’s dreams. However, what Wish lacks in clarity, it makes up for in energy and style. Pine proves himself an excellent Disney villain, as the preening Magnifico serves campy lyrics like, “I can’t help it if mirrors love my face/It’s genetics/Yeah, I got these genes from outer space!”
As delicious as Pine’s performance is, Ariana DeBose’s empathetic and courageous Asha is the undeniable heart and soul of the movie. Debose, who cut her teeth in the original cast of Hamilton and won an Academy Award for her 2021 performance in West Side Story, is an incomparable talent. As she belts out the film’s showstopper, the title song “Wish,” it’s obvious DeBose was born to play a Disney heroine.
Besides Pine and Debose’s solid core performances, this film does have some cringeworthy moments. When the star Asha wishes upon comes to earth and enchants the surrounding woodland creatures, the animals erupt into a number called “I’m a Star,” which tries a bit too hard to be the next “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” And the constant references to previous Disney classics like Mary Poppins may be fun, but it also undermines Wish by reminding the audience of better movies…
But even despite its flaws, Wish is ten times better than dreck, like Trolls Band Together. The city-state of Rosas is gorgeously brought to life through high-quality animation, which contrasts sharply with the candy-coloured vomit Dreamworks has favoured as of late. Wish also provides us with an interesting metaphor for the experiences of many migrants who come to the West, only to put their dreams on hold. The experience of putting one’s dearest wish in Magnifico’s hands when arriving in Rosas feels like a mystical spin on waiting to get citizenship or hoping the credentials earned in one’s homeland will finally be recognized by a xenophobic government.
Ultimately, if you take your kids to see Wish, they’ll’ love it and you’ll probably like it. That’s a pretty good endorsement!