Disney’s latest animated effort “Wish” is a celebration of the studio’s 100 years of existence, but like many well-intentioned events, the movie falls a bit flat because of the weight of its assignment.
Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn from a script by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, the movie works so hard to make knowing nods to so many great Disney classics of the past that its own story suffers in the process.
If there is a magic recipe for paying just the right amount of homage to a classic, Disney missed the target with this film as it teetered into the realm of overdose.
The movie, which offers an origin story for the Disney Animated Universe, isn’t bad per se; it’s just a bit bland.
That fact is hard to ignore when the movie purposefully takes you out of its story by reminding you of better Disney films from the past.
How can you become engrossed in the story of the lead character Asha (Ariana DeBose), whose only dream is to make her grandfather’s fondest wish come true, when every other second the film hits you over the head with references to Disney’s versions of Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Snow White, Bambi and a dozen or so other better films?
As an audience member you have to decide: am I going to watch the movie for the story or am I going to try to discover all the Easter eggs being laid along the way?
Had the story been more compelling I would have rode its train instead of hitching a ride on the Easter Egg Express.
Now the main audience for this movie — kids from 5 to 10 years old — won’t deal with that issue, but other older viewers will, and I have to say I got more caught up in the game within the story than the story itself.
That might be my own fault, but shouldn’t the story be engrossing enough where there isn’t a choice to make? Shouldn’t the story be first and the trivia secondary?
That said, the animation is gorgeous. The film is computer animated, but its style mimics the traditional hand-drawn and -colored animation of classic Disney films, which is a welcome effect. It is a great-looking movie from the elaborate cape and tunic of King Magnifico (Chris Pine) down to the eerie green vapors that glow when he is crafting his dark magic.
Magnifico is a sorcerer king. He purports to use his magical powers mercifully and benevolently by taking the fondest wishes away from each of his kingdom’s citizens, purportedly so they won’t feel heartbreak when their wish is not fulfilled, but it turns out there is little joy in life without the goal of working to fulfill one’s dreams.
The arrogant Magnifico feigns benevolence while stealing all the purpose and desire away from his subjects. Asha discovers his wickedness while interviewing to be the sorcerer’s apprentice, and begins to work to make her wish of overthrowing Magnifico come true with the help of her friends and a wishing star come to life.
The music and songs were solid, but not really to my taste. DeBose, though, has a wonderful singing voice and does bring a joy to Asha’s character that is undeniable.
Likewise, Pine’s voice work on Magnifico is wonderfully smarmy and arrogant, perfect for the villain who seeks to disguise his wickedness in beauty. Alan Tudyk also gives a funny performance as Valentino the talking goat.
The movie is mid-level Disney at best.
While not a classic, if you have kids in its target audience from 5 to maybe 12 years old, it will give y’all the opportunity to get out of the house for a while and have a few laughs. The trip to the theater will probably create a fun family memory for them, and you might not be bored to tears.
(PG) 1 hr. 35 min.
Giving Thanks at the Movies
There aren’t as many movies tied to our beloved Thanksgiving holiday as to say Halloween or Christmas, which rank as genres unto themselves, but like the special day itself, quality surpasses quantity.
Here’s a few suggestions of movies set on or around Thanksgiving beyond “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”
The Gold Rush
The subject of which of Charlie Chaplin’s films is the best is open to debate. From “City Lights” to “The Great Dictator,” it’s hard to go wrong in choosing any Chaplin film, but “The Gold Rush” just fits Thanksgiving like a comfortable old shoe.
Chaplin’s Little Tramp, of course, resorts to cooking and eating his shoe in the poetic fable that humorously dramatizes the Klondike gold rush. Though silent, the film speaks volumes with its slapstick and sentimentality. Chaplin’s talent was immense. How can someone say so much without saying anything at all?
I don’t have any one favorite movie. I have maybe 15 to 20 favorites that move in and out of my top five given the time of year, my mood, or what I’ve watched most recently. However in my book “Rocky” is always a top-five contender.
Sylvester Stallone’s story about how a down-and-out pug who gets a shot at the champion on Thanksgiving day may be cliched, but it is gloriously so. Expertly directed by John G. Avidsen with fantastic music by Bill Conti, the training sequences and the boxing match are riveting, but it is the love story between Talia Shire’s Adrian and Stallone’s Rocky that makes this film an all-time champ.
Scent of a Woman
In his Academy Award-winning role Al Pacino plays depressed yet vigorous retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, who is a blind, alcoholic war veteran. Prep-school student Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) takes the job of watching over Slade during the Thanksgiving holiday to earn enough money to fly home for Christmas.
Unbeknownst to Charlie, Slade plans to commit suicide during that weekend after checking off a few other items from his bucket list. Beyond watching after Slade, Charlie faces an ethical problem at school that could become a major barrier to his future success.
Over the extended holiday weekend, the two strike up a friendship which ultimately provides exactly what the other needed as they save each other.