Disney’s latest major animated movie Wish, supposed to celebrate the company’s 100 years, made me wish I was watching something more than this!
Spoiler Warning: This review of Wish contains major spoilers. Consider yourself warned!
Starring Asha (Ariana DeBose) as the newest Princess to be part of the House of Mouse legacy, I think it would be unfair to say that the promotional material for Wish didn’t do a good job of giving audiences a better picture of what the movie was going to be about. Even I was a bit surprised when I initially got to learn about the upcoming story having a protagonist wanting to go against a King who was being careful about granting everyone’s wishes. I mean, I think we can all agree that certain wishes are better left never becoming true.
And while Wish was about Asha butting heads with King Magnifico (Chris Pine), the narrative was able to make more sense when I sat down to watch the actual movie. It wasn’t about making everyone’s wishes come true. It was about allowing people to have the chance to put in the required work to make their wishes a reality. And if they were heading towards a dangerous goal, they could be stopped.
Even though Wish made me laugh quite a lot as the story unfolded (there are some nice little jokes in there and some Disney-related Easter Eggs) and I also liked the overall art style, I have to say that the story itself felt undercooked. This ended up being one of those movies that could have benefitted from at least 15 minutes of more content to flesh out the fictional world that the Kingdom of Rosas existed in, as well as the lore behind the magic being used.
Wish had the elements required to be a well-written story. However, it was just too rushed. And as I said, it made me wish for something better than what we got.
The premise involved King Magnifico and his wife, Queen Amaya (Angelique Cabral), creating the Kingdom of Rosas on an island after Magnifico learned magic. He wanted to create a place that was safe from intruders and where everyone was welcome to live in peace. A major catch of people wanting to live there was a very special tradition. When someone turned 18 years old, they would give their greatest heart’s desire to Magnifico. Once a month Magnifico would grant a person’s wish at random while the remaining wishes continued to stay under his care, making the people hope that one day their wish would also be made true.
A big red flag, that the civilians didn’t want to think too much about, was that when a wish was given to Magnifico the person would forget what said wish was. They would feel something empty inside of them, but would have no idea what it was they wanted most in life.
17-year-old Asha dreamt of becoming Magnifico’s apprentice. She’s a very enthusiastic person who worked as a tour guide for the Kingdom of Rosas. She even had an entire song to help potential newcomers learn more about Rosas and the wish-granting ceremony.
However, things drastically changed for Asha during her job interview when Magnifico explained to her about his selection process behind granting wishes. Turns out, he’s only interested in granting risk-free wishes. For example, he’s okay with giving someone a magical pair of scissors to help them create the most beautiful dresses. But he wasn’t into granting Asha’s 100-year-old grandfather Sabino’s wish because Sabino wanting to inspire others with his songs was a bit too vague. As far as Magnicfico’s concerned, what type of “inspiration” was Sabino interested in? A dangerous revolution?
On top of that, Magnifico was also against giving back people’s unfulfilled wishes so they could work on achieving them. He’s okay with them continuing to live with an empty feeling inside of them as long as it meant he could ensure peace in Rosas. And yes, it’s also about maintaining a sense of control over other people.
Asha being against Magnifico after learning the truth made a lot of sense. Even I was against what he was doing. But the way the story decided to address the conflict left me wanting more. The entire thing came across as a very good first draft that needed extra content to make it great.
The worldbuilding was close to non-existent. I don’t know how Magnifico learned magic. There’s no magic system at all. Heck! There’s even a book of dark magic owned by Magnifico but I have no idea where he got it from. And apparently, other people were capable of practicing magic but Magnifico had forbidden them to do so.
The same held true for the physical manifestation of a star Asha wished upon after learning about Magnifico’s true nature. I don’t know how said Wishing Star came into existence or why there’s not supposed to be more than one of them out there.
This movie required a longer runtime to help make the world feel more “real” and certain events more “grounded” instead of coming up with random situations to move the plot in a certain direction. The Wishing Star and Magnifico were simply doing things for the sake of the plot instead of following some kind of fictional rulebook related to their motivations.
The creative team should have taken some time to explain the origin of magic and how Magnifico found his power. And if they weren’t going to do that, they should have at least hinted at the Wishing Star being a thing of legends to make it seem a bit more believable than an entity that simply appeared because Asha made a wish one night. Perhaps add a line or two about Asha being special because her deceased father also practiced magic or had spent his life trying to summon the elusive Wishing Star? Give me something!
Magnifico being so open with Asha about how he granted wishes during the job interview also didn’t make sense. He had kept his true reasons a secret from the general public for years. That’s why seeing him be so casual in front of Asha didn’t make sense to me.
Again, a simple line or two about Magnifico and Asha’s father being childhood friends or something along those lines could have helped explain why Magnifico let his guard down in front of Asha so quickly.
The way he allowed Asha to walk away after she blatantly rejected his wish-granting process and risked Asha telling others to start a revolt against the Kingdom made me roll my eyes. Why didn’t he throw her in the dungeon? Again, having Magnifico share a soft spot for Asha due to being close to her father could have helped make Magnifico’s decisions more palatable.
Another eye-roll-inducing moment was the final battle with Magnifico. The citizens of Rosas were able to defeat his evil magic through the power of song. They didn’t have to break a particular dark amulet or burn the dark magic book or nothing of that sort. They simply sang Asha’s signature song (which they somehow knew the words to) and the power of friendship was enough to defeat Magnifico and trap him inside his dark staff. And why did the dark staff suck him in at the end?
Also, are the forest animals that the Wishing Star gave the ability of human speech to continue to keep talking? Will the trees and mushrooms it gave faces and speech to keep existing like that? Where are the rules?
The short runtime also meant that Asha’s friends couldn’t be fleshed out either. The group was inspired by the dwarves from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves but don’t ask me to recall their names and their personalities. All I know is that one of them was fashioned after Dopey while another one was Sneezy. And I think the short guy was supposed to be Grumpy, but he came across more as Sassy. You could have deleted half of the friends and nothing would have changed in the story.
Even Asha’s pet goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk) could have been omitted from the narrative. The loss would have been the comedy he brought. That’s all.
The Wishing Star could be described as a MacGuffin, but the creative team made it appear as a non-speaking cute little star. It was involved in a bunch of humor throughout the movie. So, I don’t want to complain. I mean, if you’re going to give me a MacGuffin, at least make it likable. And Wish did that.
All in all, I would call Wish a movie that will make you laugh. It’s an enjoyable time, but the plot itself will leave you questioning and hoping it was better written.
Frankly, I don’t see this movie doing well at the box office. However, I would still recommend that you consider checking it out on streaming. The approximate 95-minute long runtime will fly by like a breeze. There were a couple of catchy songs and Pine needs to do more voicework. He knocked it out of the park as Magnifico.
What did you think of Wish?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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