Review: Wish is certainly second-tier Disney but still enjoyable and effective

Wish, (U), (95 mins), Cineworld Cinemas
Wish (pic by Disney)Wish (pic by Disney)
Wish (pic by Disney)

Wish is all about wishes. Your wish might just be that the whole thing were just a little bit less bizarre. But it’s intriguing too, also perhaps a little surprising and – without being remotely in the premiership of Disney movies – it’s also pretty effective.

It starts off seemingly with the ultimate bit of wish-fulfilment, conjuring the best of all possible worlds under King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine), the ruler of Rosas, a world where everyone is welcome. And don’t we all just need a place exactly like that right now.

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But it soon takes a sinister turn, with Magnifico slipping from unctuous, self-possessed and sauve to increasingly unhinged despot. Magnifico, you see, has worked out a little pact with all his citizens, one which sounds great, but one which benefits only him.

He has encouraged everyone to hand over their dearest wish into his safe-keeping in the hope that on certain high days he will turn their wishes into reality. Fat chance of that. Instead, he has wrapped up everyone’s wishes in floating bubbles and effectively holds them hostage, hovering in a tall tower at the top of his castle.

You can’t help wondering what on earth they were smoking at Disney Towers the day they dreamt up that one. And you can’t help wondering whether the little people, at whom this film is aimed, would have the faintest grasp of what is going on – an odd world in which wishes are abstracted and withheld leaving the populace wishless and therefore malleable. Beneath his civilised veneer Magnifco really isn’t awfully magnificent – and it’s our spirited heroine Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) who’s the first to realise it when she goes for a job at the palace and gets a glimpse into the king’s dark, dark hold.

You know from the start that if anyone is going to overturn the dictator it’s going to be Asha and she calls on cosmic forces to do so. Her will power is pretty strong too – so much so that when she too, out of despair and frustration, makes a wish, the universe answers, sending her a funny little PacMan which turns out to be a star. Soon all the animals have found their voice, and Asha is a girl on a mission to liberate all those wishes and give everyone back control of their own lives.

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She’s spurred on by thoughts of her 100-year-old grandfather who’s a kind of drippy irritant in the whole thing, and along the way she’s never terribly far – and nor is anyone – away from a song. There are two or three crackers in there, but mostly the numbers are from the second tier of Disney song-writing. But for its sheer oddity, for the sheer daftness of its strange philosophical premise, Wish is a film that you can’t help but get involved with especially in a slightly chilling sequence where one of Asha’s mates betrays her in exchange for material advancement – and then promptly betrays the rest of her gang. Beneath the Disney, it’s nasty stuff.

Asha is a feisty and likeable creation, and Magnifico is an effective and curious villain. The result is a pretty decent Disney.

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