Wish (2023) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Wish ⭐⭐ ⭐

A young girl named Asha 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. In cinemas now.

As I am writing this, I hear the news that Wish, the 62nd original feature by Disney Animation, has underperformed at the box office on its first week-end of release (which incidentally is the Thanksgiving week-end in America), falling well short of the already pretty low predictions. And while of course, we shouldn’t really count it out yet (more holidays are coming soon and the film may eventually find its legs), it is clear evidence of the effect that streaming is having on family-oriented films.

Once upon a time a Disney release, in the weeks before Christmas was always an event and generally greeted by storms of families packing the auditoriums. These days nothing is certain any more. Kids seem to prefer to watch things from the comfort of their home, steaming on Disney+, where they can be paused, skipped and where you’ll be able to entertain yourself with your mobile device, with whatever the latest viral video on tik-tok, while the film is playing in the background. Welcome to the 21st century way of watching films.

It is true that the advent of steaming (especially after Covid) seems to have hurt cinema more than anyone could have anticipated, but let’s be honest, the quality of the outcome has also been lacking lately.

It is no secret that I have always been a fan of Disney animated features, but even I have to admit that I haven’t been wowed by the Disney ‘Magic’ in quite a while now.

But let’s go through it by steps.

Wish is being released on Disney’s 100th year anniversary and because of that, there is clear attempt pay homage to many of the previous outings from Peter Pan, to Mary Poppins, from Snow White to Mickey Mouse, but also Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and of course to Pinocchio (throughout the film we hear phrases like “Wish upon a star”).

And while of course there is a certain pleasure in trying to uncover all the blink-and-you-miss Easter eggs and nods in the film, it all felt to me like ticking boxes rather than actually earned moments, or even integral part of the story.

Wish is also trying to arc back to that original formula that made Disney so… well, Disney: the book opening at the start, the strong heroine, the songs, the cute animals, the funny sidekick (ready to be sold all over the world as a stuffed teddy-bear-like puppet), the evil baddie, and so on. But despite all the right ingredients, there is no running away from the fact that this feels a film made by committee, with no heart or soul, more intent to be inclusive and modern, rather than worried about telling a good story.

The plot, after a slightly convoluted start, is very generic, and so are the (too many) characters that populate it. As for the songs, with the exception of probably one, I found them all pretty unmemorable not even worth talking about. Even the score itself constantly evoked some of the notes from the classic When you wish upon a star from Pinocchio (the first Oscar winning song in a “cartoon” and the one which has been famously used for the Disney logo for years), but the result is that you actually spent the whole time wishing you were actually listening to that score instead.

For a film that is all about magic, it’s ironic how little of it I found sprinkled across this film despite all the attempts at nostalgia. Instead, it all felt a bit tired, sterile and often dull. Even the laughs were very few and far between (at least in my screening) with only one single moment (a scene with chickens) getting a big laugh.

On the visual style, even the combination of watercolour and computer animation felt awkwardly disjointed and while some of it looks pretty enough, we are far from the spectacles of Moana, Frozen, Tangled and even further from the artistry in real masterpieces like Pinocchio.

Don’t take me wrong, it’s perfectly watchable, and definitely a step above the previous Strange World, but when you see several kids running around the cinema you know that something isn’t quite working. Even my son (in theory the target audience for this sort of stuff) didn’t seem too impressed and leaving the cinema he said he would give this film “3 stars” (Dear me… I’m raising a film critic!). So, blame him for this assessment (I would have probably taken half a star out).

It breaks my heart to see my beloved Disney missing its mark once again. Let’s hope for a change of course very soon.

Wish  is out in cinemas now.