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‘Wish’ Leaves You Wishing for a Better Movie

100 years of Disney animation led to broken promises.

By Entertainment, Featured

“Wish” (2023)

Wish (2023) is a film that makes a lot of promises. It promises Disney’s foray into experimental animation techniques. It promises a struggle between what dreams will be achieved and which ones won’t. And it promises a revolutionary fantasy adventure. I am very sorry to say it could not grant those wishes.

The story is simple — in the kingdom of Rosas when citizens turn eighteen, they turn over their wishes to the king, Magnifico (Chris Pine), to be granted later. However, they then forget what they wished for, and to the horror of the protagonist, Asha (Ariana DeBose), almost no one’s wishes are ever actualized. And so, she sets out to steal back the wishes and free the people from Magnifico’s reign.

The film started out promising enough, as Asha’s point that people deserve the chance to achieve their goals was just as valid as Magnifico’s rebuttal that not every wish is altruistic, raising a real discussion about the use of free will. Unfortunately, this theme was dropped less than ten minutes after being introduced, setting the stage for a basic black-and-white crusade for freedom against a one-dimensional tyrant. With that disappointment, I still held out hope, but was let down.

The greatest problem the characters face is the destruction of wishes, but the threat is never made credible. The people of Rosas experience their desires being literally crushed, while unaware and unable to stop it, and yet so little screen time is devoted to this development that it’s hard to empathize. The catharsis that should have then arisen afterward feels unearned. The conflict is ultimately so underwhelming I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

Looking at the characters, none of them felt fleshed out, and Asha bore the worst of it. Her beliefs are never really challenged and her internal struggle is minimal. She is in the right almost from the get-go, whatever mistakes she makes are superficial, and any hardships are more awkward than engaging.

Asha’s friends received roughly one unique character trait each (with the unluckier ones not even getting that), and they seemed to exist solely to be Asha’s friends. Making matters worse, one friend betrays Asha to Magnifico for his wish, but having received almost no prior characterization, what should have been a heartbreaking reveal became incredibly unsympathetic and boring.

On the villainous side of things, Magnifico was forgettable — the worst thing a Disney villain can be. His motives were as deep as a bowl of soup, and, despite the number of references and callbacks to other Disney antagonists, he never became interesting. At best, he’s just a run-of-the-mill narcissist who couldn’t even produce a spectacle. His wife, Amaya (Angelique Cabral), had some potential due to her unique position of sympathizing with both Asha and Magnifico. Yet nothing really came of it, and she joined Asha’s side without much conflict.

Moving on to the main event: the animation. “Wish is the first attempt by Disney to utilize the newly popularized 2D-3D blended style used by media such as “Spider-Verse,” “Arcane,” and “Mutant Mayhem.” Had “Wish been released a few years ago, I may have viewed it more favorably, but compared to the work I have seen as of late, it was incredibly lackluster. The failure comes from Disney trying to have their cake and eat it too, attempting to combine their usual styles for 2D and 3D animation without compromise, despite the inherent incompatibility.

The end result was remarkably disappointing for a studio historically known for its animation quality. Scenes lacked depth and dimension. Characters looked blurry in wide shots. The entire film felt like a regular CGI film put through a filter. There were particular issues when it came to any full-body shots, as the dark outlines around characters looked out of place on otherwise clearly CGI models.

The music, like the rest of the film, was unmemorable. The songs were so modern that they clashed with the traditional aesthetics of the setting, and they didn’t even manage to achieve an earworm to play in the nightmares of parents. The talents of their capable cast generally felt wasted on such dull material, being too heavily restrained to shine.

Altogether, “Wish” was a disappointment through and through. It’s almost painful because everything was there to make provoking arguments and interesting characters, but every punch was pulled and the animation was as flat as the story.

“Wish” seemed to be trying to connect the past and the present on Disney’s 100th anniversary but instead made a disingenuous and formulaic story lacking everything that made the older films memorable. “Wish”  fulfilled none of the promises it made, and seems more like a very expensive marketing scheme than a genuine creative work.

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