Wish | Review by: Amanda Guarragi
For one hundred years, Disney has created magical original stories that have enchanted the hearts of children and adults everywhere. Their mission was to create beloved characters that children could identify with and learn from. With powerful themes, great music and a little bit of pixie dust, these films have stood the test of time with a lasting impression on animated features. Disney films have been a staple in everyone’s childhood, and the princesses they have created have been important for young girls everywhere. The female characters have always been a strength in Disney animation, and they have developed their stories quite well with songs to express their true feelings. In Disney’s new animated feature Wish, Asha (Ariana DeBose) feels like a mixture of every princess combined to create a new origin story for a special character.
Asha wants to become King Magnifico’s (Chris Pine) apprentice and has her first interview with the King. She expresses the qualities that make her unique and how her father had helped her connect with her wishes. Like every star in the sky, a wish is unique to anyone who sets their heart on something. One day, Asha wishes for a star in the sky and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to help her with her quest. Asha doesn’t understand why King Magnifico holds the wishes of his kingdom captive and grants whichever one he thinks would service him best. Co-writers Jennifer Lee, Allison Moore and Chris Buck wrote a straightforward story with two loveable sidekicks in Valentino (Alan Tudyk) and Star. But every other character apart from King Magnifico was underdeveloped. The goal here was to reference other Disney characters for Asha’s friends in the castle, which led to them being hollow with no spirit of their own.
We finally got a rich and complex Disney villain that outshined nearly everyone in the film, including Asha. DeBose has a lovely voice, and the majority of Asha’s development was expressed through multiple songs. This would have worked because it has in past films, but the songs were lacklustre and lacked that staying power. Out of the voice cast: Tudyk had some great one-liners for Valentino, and Pine carried the entire film on his back. Without the richness of King Magnifico and the multiple references sprinkled throughout, this is nearly forgettable. The animation is gorgeous because they used a hybrid of 2D and 3D animation to have a feel of entering a storybook. The songs in the film do feel magical, and the visuals are stunning, but that magic fades rather quickly because the characters are poorly written. Asha had an objective, but it didn’t feel like it was hers. It was for a community, and she had given so much to help others that her wish was never fully realized.
There was a strong concept developed for this film that felt like a culmination of 100 years’ worth of original stories, but the execution was flawed. It felt as if the focus was to develop the villain in detail more so than Asha because she was the hero. There is a level of simplicity that will work for children because of how exposition-heavy this was. It does feel like they are re-telling an origin story to the audience. The references stacked in this film are crystal clear, but all surmount the vagueness of the meaning of this story. We don’t know who Asha is at the end of Wish, which is an issue, especially with this concept. After years of storytelling, original characters like this shouldn’t feel like there have been traits from other characters being plucked to form them. It’s unfortunate because they could have made this incredibly meta and gone all in, and it would have brought everything full circle. That’s what they attempted at the surface without going deeper. We don’t connect with Asha because her purpose is to help others, and we don’t know who she is making her one-dimensional.
Review by: Amanda Guarragi
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