Wish film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Wish

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on November 21, 2023

Theatrical Release:
November 22, 2023

"Wish" leans heavily on Disney's time-tested traditions with ample artistry and a moderate amount of success. Keep reading DVDizzy's Disney Wish movie review.

Running Time95 min

RatingG

Running Time 95 min

RatingG

Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn

Jennifer Lee, Allison Moore (story & screenplay); Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn (story); Carlos López Estrada, Andrew Rothschild (additional story material)

Ariana DeBose (Asha), Chris Pine (Magnifico), Alan Tudyk (Valentino), Angelique Cabral (Queen Amaya), Victor Garber (Sabino), Natasha Rothwell (Sakina), Jennifer Kumiyama (Dahlia), Harvey Guillén (Gabo), Niko Vargas (Hal), Evan Peters (Simon), Ramy Youssef (Safi), Jon Rudnitsky (Dario), Della Saba (Bazeema)


Wish (2023)

by Luke Bonanno

If you’ve paid attention to movies at all this year, then you probably already know that 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company. It’s a milestone the company has celebrated with a bevy of new merchandise, a handful of theatrical rereleases, and an all-new short film. While Disney is never one to miss an anniversary and this centennial is as significant as any in the entertainment world, it didn’t dramatically change what the company already does on a regular basis: looking back and immortalizing their many triumphs.

Disney’s contributions to pop culture, particularly their animated features, have endured longer and stronger than perhaps any other media. Part of it is the timelessness of the work. They were all made in color and mostly limited to moderate runtimes conducive to watching and rewatching. They appeal to children but not exclusively and thus have been passed on over multiple generations.

The stories they tell are full of fantasy, vitality, and humor that transcend language and culture. And just in case the intrinsic value of the movies themselves was not evident, one of the foundations of the company has always been to keep the properties alive and visible, something they’ve done with everything from regular high-profile reissues in theaters and home video.

With the occasional demand-increasing moratorium on the latter to legacy sequels, live-action remakes, and canon-unifying undertakings like Kingdom Hearts, “House of Mouse”, and pretty much every parade, fireworks show, and store at the parks. Walt has been dead for over sixty years and yet his legacy is as well-known, well-documented, and beloved as anyone in the history of film.

Leaning into the legacy and the traditions of the format has been integral to Walt Disney Animation Studios’ modern successes. When the studio lost its way in the 2000s, abandoning hand-drawn animation and trying too hard to be like the competition, it got back on track with the very things with which it launched feature animation in the 1930s: musical fairy tales with a princess at the center.

Flops like Treasure Planet and Home on the Range were soon forgotten. Blockbusters like Tangled and Frozen could be mined for billions of dollars in ticket sales, merchandise, and a variety of brand expansions. While the studio has had ample success away from princess musicals, including inventive 2010s adventures like Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6, they always seem to return to the tried and true when things get uncertain.

In disney's "wish", teenaged heroine asha (voiced by ariana debose) makes a wish and has a star sent her way in our disney wish movie review.

Uncertain is about the nicest way to describe last November’s release, the utterly disastrous Strange World, whose $73 million worldwide haul (not a typo) made it WDAS’ lowest grossing feature since 1990’s The Rescuers Down Under, an outlier sequel made near the start of the studio’s late-20th century renaissance. You couldn’t even blame the pandemic or Disney+ for that historic disappointment, since the futuristic adventure opened in over 4,000 theaters and waited a month to begin streaming. Maybe at some point, Strange World will find an appreciative following, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.

The commercial and critical failure of that, the studio’s 61st entry in the canon, provide some obvious context for the nature of #62: Wish, which is — you guessed it — a musical fairy tale. Wish takes an approach reminiscent to the studio’s 60th feature, Encanto, which can be categorized as a hit for its time despite putting up box office numbers almost identical to what Hercules earned a quarter-century earlier as part of the post-Renaissance downward slide. Ignoring ticket price inflation and a significantly higher budget.

Wish is set on the Mediterranean island of Rosas, where sorcerer/king Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine) uses magic to grant the occasional wish. Magnifico’s backstory is relayed by our protagonist, the freckled biracial 17-year-old Asha (West Side Story Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose), who is interviewing to become the King’s apprentice. On her visit to the castle, Asha gets to see the floaty crystal orbs that hold the wishes that the citizens of Rosas made, gave to the king for protection, and no longer remember. She pleads with Magnifico to grant the wish of her 100-year-old grandfather Sabino (Victor Garber), a request he rejects along with her otherwise promising application.

Disheartened by the experience, Asha makes a wish to the heavens above and is surprised to almost immediately be met by a squishy and magical star. The silent but expressive Star — glowing yellow with five points and a face — gives voice to a variety of forest animals, including Asha’s prized pet goat Valentino (the requisite Alan Tudyk role), who beame the primary source of laughs for the under-5 demographic at my screening.

Vaguely aware of the cosmic event he perceives to be a threat to his kingdom, Magnifico urges his subjects to come forth with any information they may have about what Asha did. He consults his ancient spell books to try to deal with the situation.

The people of rosas entrust the silver-haired sorcerer king magnifico (voiced by chris pine) with their forgotten wishes in our disney wish movie review.

Hailing from veteran director Chris Buck (Tarzan and both Frozen movies) and veteran story artist/first-time director Fawn Veerasunthorn, Wish checks off the various boxes that apply to WDAS’ biggest hits in most eras. Its artistry manifests in striking visuals and lively original songs. The former attempts to give more of a traditional two-dimensional, hand-drawn appearance than we’re accustomed to seeing in three-dimensional computer animation. It’s not a perfect blend of the two styles, but it is appealing and helps to both distinguish this from other modern cartoons and link it to the Disney classics whose ranks it desperately wants to join.

The music comes from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice. While there doesn’t appear to be anything destined for “Let It Go” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” impact, the songs advance the plot with minimal concern while filling traditional musical storytelling roles.

That Wish arrives at the height of Disney’s centennial anniversary seems to have inspired Buck, Veerasunthorn, and their fellow writers, WDAS chief creative officer Jennifer Lee (Buck’s fellow Frozen movie director) and TV-seasoned Allison Moore to join in on the nostalgic Mouse House celebration. A number of supporting Wish characters take their looks and personalities from Snow White’s seven “dwarfs”, although of course per 2023 Disney these characters are diverse in height, body type, gender, and ethnicity.

The film features a storybook opening and classic Disney film font titles. A character briefly and inexplicably stands in for Peter Pan. Rafiki’s famous ceremonial display of the baby Simba is recreated. I’m sure at some point in the near-future, there will be a way to watch the entire film with all these not so hidden Easter eggs — like a plainly not hidden Mickey head silhouette in closing fireworks — pointed out.

I don’t know that this reference-heavy design does Wish any favors. If you’re not enough of a Disney fan to find it mildly distracting, then you could just miss it altogether. If you are, your mind is likely to be alerted to the fact that, at least on its initial viewing, this movie is not as magical as any of the ones it’s trying to emulate. (If you’re reading this review, you’re also likely not an undiscerning, impressionable child.)

Asha's newly intelligible goat valentino (voiced by alan tudyk) is designed to be the breakout comic sidekick of "wish" in our disney wish movie review.

For the diehard Disney fans who can even rattle off the names of the obscure anthology features that Walt made during World War II, the closing credits prove unusually compelling, as they feature characters from past films of Walt Disney Animation Studios in chronological order. But not all the films. Dinosaur, Chicken Little, and Strange World surprisingly made the cut.

The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, Meet the Robinsons, the South American anthologies, and both Rescuers movies? Not included, unless I somehow missed or forgot them. Most of the canon’s few sequels are omitted too. It makes you think — provided you know the whole roster by heart, as if that information became the foundation of a website you created in high school — what it takes to be excluded from an undertaking that celebrates something like 85% of the entire WDAS oeuvre.

Will Wish, with its weak currently 50% critical approval rating, one day be relegated to the forgotten fringes of the catalog? Perhaps. Should it be? That is a tough question to answer just a few hours after a single viewing.

I enjoyed the movie enough to place it in the top sixth of the 150 and counting 2023 films I’ve seen. Even so that’s only enough to rank it 44th out of the 62 Disney animated features, which places it in the bottom third all time.

Conclusion: Disney Wish Movie Review

Despite the prominent “100” adorning the Disney logo this year, math generally doesn’t feature into one’s appreciation of the animated features, or lack thereof. It is the artistry, the story, the characters, the music, and that “intangible” magic. While Wish leaves a good amount to be desired in the story and characters department, often a fatal flaw, I feel that it gets enough right in those other areas to qualify as an enjoyable time and one of the few animated films released this year that I can strongly recommend.

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