Do not 'Wish' upon this star-crossed Disney animated musical
“Wish” — ★ ★
“Wish” may be Walt Disney's newest addition to its family of animated features, but not its freshest.
This mercifully short musical fantasy feels as if a studio executive shoveled every one of Disney's animated classics into an Artificial Intelligence program and used the result to construct a 92-minute collective commercial for the centennial anniversary of the Mouse House.
This should not be a bad thing at all for younger audiences who've yet to experience the original magic of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Pinocchio,” “Bambi, “Dumbo” and other classics.
The agreeably unmemorable songs, spectacular set pieces, faintly touching plot and obligatory comic relief animals and objects (one that could well be the Star wished upon by Jiminy Cricket) will engage them enough for “Wish” to find an appreciative audience.
Nonetheless, for the rest of us, this Wishy-washy movie might be best viewed as a feature-length game of spotting numerous Disney references crammed into the dialogue and visuals.
Bright and idealistic 17-year-old Asha (Ariana DeBose) — a bundle of nervous energy and overarticulated cuteness — wants to become the emperor's apprentice in Rosas, a magical land ruled by the handsomely beneficent sorcerer King Magnifico (Chris Pine).
As a supposed service to the people, King Magnifico collects all the residents' dreams for safe keeping in blue glass bubbles that float inside his palatial house. Once every year, he says he might grant a wish.
Asha presses the king to consider granting her father's secret wish. When he refuses, she dares to criticize him for not returning the wishes to the people, and threatens to tell everyone, prompting a suddenly volatile king to reveal the real short-tempered, megalomaniacal dictator under his Doctor Strange facade.
Spoiler alert: Asha doesn't get the job.
She then makes a wish so big that it causes the Rosas citizens to glow — and summons forth the most magical of stars, a celestial entity so famous, it goes by a single name: Star.
Does this zippy, emoji-like character free the people's dreams? Nope, but it does enable animals to speak English, just in time for Asha to find a comical sidekick — a talking goat named Valentino (Alan Tudyk).
One might ponder exactly what form of criminal activity has King Magnifico committed? He promised to free his people of the burden of unrealized dreams and would consider granting one every year. And the residents agreed to this deal.
Where's the deception?
What if “Wish” is really a cautionary political tale about the dangers of pinning hopes and dreams on a charismatic leader promising to unburden his followers who are blind to the true ego-driven id creature lurking under those sharp clothes and product-fixed hair?
“I decide what everyone deserves!” the king thunders, his soft blue eyes turning into green laser beams of raw control and power. He orders his people to hunt down Asha, the single dissenter in this supposedly utopian kingdom. Do they comply?
If this seems like too big of a stretch for a Disney animated musical, fear not.
There are still squawking chickens shooting out eggs like bazooka bombs and jokes about goat butts to satisfy the less-allegorical minded.
Trailers advertise “Wish” as “a story a century in the making.”
How sad that the animated movie selected to celebrate 100 years of Disney joyously references so many classics but fails to include two components key to their successes: innovation and unforgettable characters.
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Starring: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk
Directed by: Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
Other: A Walt Disney Animated Studios release. Rated PG. 92 minutes