Wish movie review: Disney celebrates its 100th birthday with disappointing, self-congratulatory nod to its glory days

2.5/5 stars

This year, in case you hadn’t heard, Disney celebrates its 100th birthday. And as a present to itself, the animation giant has commissioned Wish – a film that celebrates that most Disney of themes: wish fulfilment.

Set in the Mediterranean kingdom of Rosas, it’s a world created by its king, a sorcery-proficient ruler named Magnifico (Chris Pine). He has captured everyone’s wishes, storing them in blue baubles in his kingdom, and doling them out very irregularly.

When young Asha (Ariana DeBose) visits the king to see if she can become his apprentice, she has one thing in mind. The latest wish ceremony coincides with her grandfather’s 100th birthday (how very Disney), and she would love for his heart’s desire to be granted.

However, when Magnifico discovers this involves creating something to inspire the next generation, he cruelly dismisses Asha from his presence.

Then, in the way only Disney can, Asha meets a star who falls from the sky – a bright yellow cutie who has magical powers to grant wishes. From there, our wholesome heroine encounters a menagerie of talking animals, including her pet goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk) when she takes a trip into the forest.

King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine) in a still from “Wish”. Photo: Disney

And so begins a battle for power in Rosas as they race to see who will end up living happily ever after.

The film comes co-directed by Fawn Veerasunthorn and Chris Buck, the latter co-writing the script with Allison Moore and his erstwhile co-director on the mega hit Frozen, Jennifer Lee.

Unfortunately, there’s little chance of Buck and Lee conjuring the same magic here. To start with, the film’s songs are instantly forgettable. Only in isolated moments, such as when a crop of talking mushrooms get used as drum cymbals, are there flashes of charm.

A still from “Wish”. Photo: Disney

Largely, it feels like a self-congratulatory nod to Disney past. The end credits feature images of such Disney stalwarts like Pooh Bear, The Jungle Book’s Baloo and the foxy Robin Hood. There are even oblique references to Mary Poppins and Peter Pan’s Neverland in the story itself.

Plus, if you stay to after the end credits, you’ll find a very sweet rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star”, the song made famous in 1940’s Pinocchio.

Maybe the House of Mouse’s century of achievement merits some sort of celebration, but Wish isn’t really it. The animation does have a pleasingly old-school, hand-drawn sheen to it, and West Side Story star DeBose gives a lively and likeable vocal turn.

Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) in a still from “Wish”. Photo: Disney

But otherwise this feels like a faded facsimile of past Disney glories.

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