Disney is officially kicking off the holiday movie season with the family friendly animated feature, WISH. Read on to find out if you’ll love it and if it’s a great Thanksgiving movie for the family.
WISH Plot Summary
WISH is the story of an island kingdom, borne of a man who came from an oppressed life and learned magic to escape it. As such, Magnifico has created the kingdom of Rosas, designed to welcome anyone and everyone. And with his magic, he allows every resident to make a wish on their 18th birthday. He saves and protects the wishes until a special day when he’ll choose which wish to grant.
But… everything is not all as it seems. A young girl in the kingdom, Asha, described as a “a sharp-witted idealist,” interviews for a position as the king’s apprentice. This implies that she’ll learn his ways of magic and someday be able to grant wishes of her own.
Until… she discovers that Magnifico is not as altruistic as he seems. And too much power is never a good thing, especially if you don’t follow the “great power, great responsibility” mantra.
Asha is frustrated and disheartened by what she learns about Magnifico and wishes on a star for a better life for everyone in Rosas. The adorable little star makes its way down from the heavens and this is where the adventure begins.
What Worked in WISH
The story is pretty straightforward. A nice happy kingdom that gets disrupted when the curtain is pulled back. And Asha simply wants to make it right. She cares deeply about her family, including her mother and her 100 year old grandfather, Saba.
Scattered throughout the film are musical numbers by Asha, voiced and sung by Ariana Debose. Her voice is absolutely beautiful and worked perfectly for the film, as did Chris Pine’s, who voiced and sung the role of Magnifico.
Also noted was the throwback to an older style of animation. While the characters were beautifully drawn, the focus seemed less on heavily on CGI to make a realistic world for viewers. It felt more animated and cartoonish than many features in recent years.
Also in a throwback, possibly to acknowledge the anniversary of 100 years of Disney, are the nods to animated classics over the years – Easter eggs for the Disney nut. You’ll find definite nods to FROZEN, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Snow White, and more that I probably didn’t even pick up on! Watch for the fonts in the credits too!
The star was cute, the cast was diverse, and it was a nice movie. When I asked the 11 year old girl I was with what she thought, she said, “I liked it.”
That’s probably the strongest opinion you’ll get about this film. And at 1 hour and 35 minutes, the runtime is perfect for younger kids as well.
What Didn’t Work in WISH
If I started with what did work, I’m sure you guessed that I’d have thoughts on what didn’t work. And there were things aplenty.
This story is set in a kingdom. We’re talking old school kingdom. All the women wear renaissance-style clothing and live in thatched roof cottages. They cook in kitchens, walk in the woods, and gather in the town square. They play the lute. And then, in comes the music. The songs, while very catchy, are decidedly pop music. They just… didn’t fit.
And speaking of the songs, they definitely slowed the pace of the movie and didn’t necessarily seem relevant to the story. There were times where it very obviously felt like someone said, “Okay, let’s put in the new Let It Go song here.”
Thinking back to the phenomenon that was Frozen, the song Let It Go was a huge turning point for the character of Elsa. It was visually stunning but also was really important to her character arc. Yes, I’m talking about character arc in a Disney movie. These are expert story writers after all.
The songs were fun and the visuals were sometimes beautiful but didn’t necessarily have relevance to the movie. You could cut them out and never miss them.
Now, let’s talk about Magnifico. The handsome king with a past. He’s risen above his station to create a new world with peace, harmony, and wishes… due to magic. Okay. And within minutes, he turns from a nice guy to I HAVE ALL THE POWER.
I literally turned to my husband and said, “Well that escalated quickly.”
Again, story matters, even for animated Disney films. Give me characters that make sense.
And speaking of characters, this is the first time that I realized that the modern Disney animated features seem to recycle the same characters over and over.
The villains go without saying. We love a good bad guy. But they should be easy to dislike. When it came to Magnifico, I felt confused. Can we go back to Walt’s style and just have the honest to goodness evil villianesses? I don’t care if he had mommy issues. They were good villains!
But it was the lovely character of Asha where I realized how formulaic these characters are. Remember the strong-willed but cutesy Rapunzel? And the strong-willed but cutesy Anna? Same character, recycled.
Final Thoughts on WISH
Overall, it was a good story but messily executed. Not terribly complex but ultimately satisfying (good wins over evil).
The songs are catchy but not in an annoying way (we all were fatigued from Let It Go).
It’s short enough to keep the attention of your kids and visually interesting enough (and nostalgic enough) to keep the attention of adults.
Will you regret seeing it? Absolutely not. Will you remember it the next day? Probably not. But you’ll enjoy the family time together!
And definitely stay for the Stinger at the very end. It’s so sweet!