Wish is a mediocre movie. The most interesting thing about Wish is how it represents the current box office climate and what Disney has done to it.
I won’t get into a deep Disney history lesson here, but to understand Wish, we must know how we got here. Disney has dominated the box office for the last 15 years.
They had an unbelievable run with Marvel for the first 10. And deservedly so. We had never witnessed a string of well-made, star-making, deep, and interconnected movies all leading towards a big finale. It didn’t matter who you were. Marvel was worth a trip to the theater, young, old, man or woman.
With Infinity War, Marvel brought it home with a bang. Endgame is the highest-grossing movie to this day. The entire incredible saga took ten years to climax. However, Disney failed to keep the magic going for the following five.
Meanwhile, Disney Animation Studios also had a renaissance. They made a bunch of massive hits, including Frozen, Moana, and Encanto. At the same time, their usual homerun hitter, Pixar, floundered. They had some blockbusters but also their first busts in history.
For the last decade and a half, Disney was the box office. They made a billion dollars on every movie and redefined a hit. So much so that a film only debuts in theaters if it can compete at that level. There are a few other factors, like the pandemic and streaming, but the bottom line is that there used to be two to three movies opening every weekend, but now there might be two to three in a season.
With Wish, Disney is on their 10th consecutive flop. Wish and The Marvels before it became their biggest flops in 15 years. People have superhero fatigue, and Disney has lost their magic. That’s the basis of this review.
Wish is a paint-by-numbers princess picture with zero originality. Disney is mining the nostalgic well, very much like the current state of the parks and lifeless live-action recreations of their past hits.
Talking animal sidekick, got it. An early hero who turns out to be the big bad? Yep, and even earlier than usual. A problem that can only be solved with a little newfound magic? Yes. Wish checks off every list item but only with the bare minimum attempt.
Just like the title says, Wish is all about wishes. Magnifico is a boy who gets torn from his hometown. He travels the world and studies magic to become an all-powerful sorcerer. With his magic, he creates a new city, Rosas, where everyone is welcome. Every year, there is a wish ceremony where you give your wish to Magnifico, and one person gets their wish granted.
If your wish isn’t granted, Magnifico holds on to it forever. However, you no longer remember your wish. Magnifico sees this as a service. If your wish can’t be granted, you should be happier not thinking about it. In reality, not having anything to strive for makes people passionless and unhappy.
Asha, the new princess, has the rare opportunity to become Magnifico’s apprentice. She gets an invite to the castle, where she learns Magnifico’s true nature. He only grants wishes that empower him and his image. This year’s wish will be granted to a dressmaker who will make everyone in town, and therefore Magnifico, look fabulous.
Her grandfather’s dying wish is to play music in front of the city and inspire all who listen. To Magnifico, this is a threat. Maybe her grandfather will play anti-Rosas propaganda and threaten his reign. He locks up her grandfather’s wish, and any like it, forever.
Asha expresses how bad this is for Rosas, and Magnifico denies her any chance of being his apprentice. She goes home and wishes upon a star, where she meets her first sidekick and gets some new magical powers.
The rest of the movie plays out in traditional ways. Asha rallies city folk to her cause, sings some songs, and has a big finale with Magnifico. Every bit of it comes off bare bones and never hits the heights of Frozen, Moana, or Encanto.
There is one interesting thing about Wish. One thing everyone in the cousins crew seemed to like. And, it’s the one thing that deserved such a lengthy intro about Disney’s history.
Among all the Wishes Magnifico has kept are those from Disney’s past. One wish is for a boy who wants to fly, aka Peter Pan. There are nods to Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, and Asha herself is an origin story to Cinderella’s fairy godmother.
Disney can’t help itself. After 15 years of making billions retelling old comic books, rehashing their animated hits from the glory days, and repurposing anything original at the parks into branded bloat – they cram every bit of nostalgia into their newest princess movie.
All the original magic they are now running dry from the well came from letting the best artists of their time tell stories. Now, the boardroom tells the stories. Artists can only make something new if they include something old. Much like the wishes in the movie, Disney is sapping every bit of passion they can from a loyal audience.
Disney is celebrating their 100th anniversary right now. And, while I recounted the last 15, I know there were plenty of slumps and bumps in the previous 85. Hopefully, we are in a slump. Disney has the money and prestige to right the ship. For the sake of my six year old daughter and her limited window of wide-eyed magic, I hope we set sail soon.