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REVIEW: 'Wish' is a fun, lighthearted throwback to everything Disney

By Jerald Uy Published Nov 22, 2023 11:44 am

It can be a friend who laughs at your attempt to work out and go on a diet. It can be your significant other who keeps saying “nay” to your interests like busking or cosplaying. It can also be a mentor you admire but dismiss your attempts to get out of your comfort zone.

These villains in our midst, the dreamkillers, are the main cause of conflict in Wish. For its 100th anniversary, Walt Disney Animation Studios creates a heroine named Asha (Ariana DeBose), who carries the never-say-die attitude of past Disney Princesses, albeit without the privilege. In the Kingdom of Rosas, there is only one person the residents, mostly refugees, seek validation for their ambitions: Magnifico (Chris Pine), who decides who gets their wish granted. The residents are gaslighted with the idea that they could never be more than what they are, unless Magnifico says otherwise.

The musical fantasy film is a fun, lighthearted throwback to everything Disney. From the theme of wishing to be more, a clique that mirrors Snow White’s seven dwarfs, classic architecture from its fairy tales, recycled storyboards, signature catchphrases to talking and singing funny animals, Wish takes us back on memory lane. Make sure you don’t mind having a Disney fan as your movie date, pinpointing every reference in the film.

This can be attributed to longtime director Chris Buck, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated Tarzan and the Oscar-winning Frozen, where he was credited for its story. Digging old files from the Disney library and writing the story for Wish might have been a breeze for him, having worked in many Disney animated features in some capacity.

Wish showcases sequences reminiscent of classic and recent Disney animated features.

Still, Wish can be enjoyed as a standalone tale, especially for those looking for a break from mature content with heavy themes. The story has twists that are easy to figure out but the predictability is offset by a powerful soundtrack.

Grammy-nominated singer Julia Michaels led a strong songwriting team that included singer JP Saxe and producer Benjamin Rice of A Star is Born (2018) fame. The song This Wish is a great anthem for go-getters who are being dragged down by naysayers. Compared to the stoic message of Frozen’s Let It Go, This Wish carries the message of facing the challenges head-on, instead of running away from them. Both Asha and Frozen’s Elsa though exercise their willpower in their own right.

Oscar and Golden Globe winner Andrea DeBose has both the acting chops and the singing range to portray Asha. In the Philippines, singer Zephanie recorded a Tagalog version of the main song, Aking Hiling, with translated lyrics by Rudolf Baldonado Jr., writer and director of the Filipino dubbed version of the anime series Trese.

Wish centers on Asha who wished upon a sentient “star.”

In a short chat with PhilSTAR L!fe, Zephanie said that she relates to the song and movie because it tells everyone can have their wishes come true regardless of what season of life they are in.

“Hindi ako makapaniwala na sa panahon ng buhay ko ngayon, natupad ‘yung pangarap ko na iyon,” she said during the Philippine premiere of Wish in Glorietta’s Ayala Cinema. “It’s a very big project and I’m happy na makita na kahit sino pwede, kahit sa anong edad, kahit anong panahon ng buhay mo, basta gusto ng puso mo at binigay sa’yo ni Lord, para sa’yo yun.”

Fittingly enough, a 100-year-old character in the movie, the same age as the studio, experiences a cognitive dissonance of whether to follow his dream or not. The signature song of The Walt Disney Company, When You Wish Upon a Star is rehashed and helps navigate the character’s journey, much the same way it did for the wooden puppet who wished to become a real boy in Pinocchio (1940).

Apart from the homages, Wish reminds us of the core message of its namesake and founder, Walt Disney: "Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever."

Wish opens on Wednesday, Nov. 22 in Philippine cinemas. Stay for a post-credits scene. Watch the trailer below.