Wish I Was Here

Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!
(Previous editions of Reeling can be downloaded from iTunes by clicking this link.)

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Wish I Was Here
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is a 35-year old out of work actor. His wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), has been supporting her husband and kids, Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon), unhappily working in an office with a behavior inappropriate male coworker. Life is a struggle for the Bloom family and it only gets worse when Aidan’s dad, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), announces that he can no longer pay for the kids Hebrew school education in “Wish I Was Here.”

Robin:
This is actor turned actor-writer-director Zach Braff’s second feature outing. His first, “Garden State (2004),” was about a young man (played by Braff) who suffers loss but in the end finds redemption and happiness. “Wish I Was Here” is completely different. It is about a middle-age man (played by Braff) who suffers loss but in the end finds redemption and happiness. Completely different, right?

“Wish I Was Here” is more a series of vignettes than it is a complete film. Braff (with co-writer Adam J. Braff, Zach’s older brother) breaks the Bloom’s life into its elements. When Aidan finds out that his dad has not been paying the kids’ tuition, he finds out that Gabe has cancer and need all of his money to pay for experimental treatment. This leads to Aidan pulling the kids from Hebrew school, with him deciding to give them home schooling. Then there is Sarah, a young teen who has embraced Judaism with religious fervor, cutting her hair to protest being pulled from school. There is also Aidan’s brother, Noah (Josh Gad), a supposed genius who has been estranged from Gabe for years. (Guess what happens with their relationship.)

All of these plot threads, and there are more than the ones above, utilizes quirky situations that are often silly and nonsensical – like the ongoing joke involving a giant swear jar that represents the family’s savings. The joke is carried to ludicrous lengths then dropped, like the jar, without further ado. There is also the fantasy bit where Aidan convinces a Maserati car dealer to let him and the kids take a quarter million dollar car on a test drive.

Just like in “Garden State,” Braff takes all of the trials and tribulations of Bloom family life and ties it all off in a happily-ever-after finale. “Wish I Was Here” is light entertainment but forces itself upon you. I give it a C+.

Laura:
With his disapproving dad Gabe (Mandy Patinkin, Showtime's 'Homeland') dying of cancer and unable to fund his kids' private education anymore, unemployed actor Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff, TV's 'Scrubs') is faced with home schooling Grace (Joey King, "White House Down," TV's 'Fargo') and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon, "Looper"), orchestrating a parental reunion with his eccentric genius younger brother Noah (Josh Gad, "Jobs," "The Internship") and learning to recognize the sacrifices his wife Sarah's (Kate Hudson, "Bride Wars") made in "Wish I Was Here."

Cowriter (with Adam J. Braff)/star/director Zach Braff's ("Garden State") infamously-funded-via-Kickstarter movie is a bit more grown up than his last one, but he's still leaning on too many cutesy devices to attain the emotional depth he's going for.  It says something that the single truly moving scene is one between Patinkin and Hudson, the latter of whom is the surprising reason to see this film. As Braff walks around town toting a giant swear jar instead of a more practical wallet, Hudson grounds every scene she's in with real emotion in her own exhausted reality.  She's a revelation here.

That's not to say Braff is lacking wit.  As he sits with his kids and dad in a doctor's waiting room, he glances at a brochure holder advertising 'This pamphlet may save your life.'  It's empty. He looks appropriately haggard.  But his first attempt at an in-home schoolroom predictably ends with his bright daughter teaching him as his son goofs off and a visit to his under-achieving brother's cliffside trailer advertises the components of the ComicCon costume Noah will be making to connect with a pretty girl all laid out, just connect the dots.  The Blooms are scraping pennies, but somehow Grace comes up with an ornate pair of antique welding goggles as a gift for grandad (for the white light).

Aidan tells his brother his wife has her dream job, but we see her in administrative hell, doing data entry for the water department sharing a cubicle with inappropriate coworker Jerry.  Celebrating the matriarch (after calling her an enabler for his son, Gabe will tell Sarah she's going to be a great one someday) is what Braff does best here.  On a rare evening out (during which Grace will overact under the unwatchful eye of Noah), Sarah finally speaks up - 'When did this relationship become solely about supporting your dream?' - and gets through.  During an audition, Aidan helps a fellow candidate (Jim Parsons, TV's 'The Big Bang Theory'), setting up, for once, a realistic closing development.  His fulfillment of Gabe's last request (for an Almond Toasted) is genuinely touching and his imaginary astronaut reveries work because he's defined them as fantasy.

With "Wish I Was Here," Braff has made a coming of age saga for a grown man.  It works in part, his central theme a good one, but his more puerile filmmaking tendencies weaken its impact.  Hudson, however, is excellent, the most mature element of a too fanciful film.

C+ With his disapproving dad Gabe (Mandy Patinkin, Showtime's 'Homeland') dying of cancer and unable to fund his kids' private education anymore, unemployed actor Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff, TV's 'Scrubs') is faced with home schooling Grace (Joey King, "White House Down," TV's 'Fargo') and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon, "Looper"), orchestrating a parental reunion with his eccentric genius younger brother Noah (Josh Gad, "Jobs," "The Internship") and learning to recognize the sacrifices his wife Sarah's (Kate Hudson, "Bride Wars") made in "Wish I Was Here."

Cowriter (with Adam J. Braff)/star/director Zach Braff's ("Garden State") infamously-funded-via-Kickstarter movie is a bit more grown up than his last one, but he's still leaning on too many cutesy devices to attain the emotional depth he's going for.  It says something that the single truly moving scene is one between Patinkin and Hudson, the latter of whom is the surprising reason to see this film. As Braff walks around town toting a giant swear jar instead of a more practical wallet, Hudson grounds every scene she's in with real emotion in her own exhausted reality.  She's a revelation here.

That's not to say Braff is lacking wit.  As he sits with his kids and dad in a doctor's waiting room, he glances at a brochure holder advertising 'This pamphlet may save your life.'  It's empty. He looks appropriately haggard.  But his first attempt at an in-home schoolroom predictably ends with his bright daughter teaching him as his son goofs off and a visit to his under-achieving brother's cliffside trailer advertises the components of the ComicCon costume Noah will be making to connect with a pretty girl all laid out, just connect the dots.  The Blooms are scraping pennies, but somehow Grace comes up with an ornate pair of antique welding goggles as a gift for grandad (for the white light).

Aidan tells his brother his wife has her dream job, but we see her in administrative hell, doing data entry for the water department sharing a cubicle with inappropriate coworker Jerry.  Celebrating the matriarch (after calling her an enabler for his son, Gabe will tell Sarah she's going to be a great one someday) is what Braff does best here.  On a rare evening out (during which Grace will overact under the unwatchful eye of Noah), Sarah finally speaks up - 'When did this relationship become solely about supporting your dream?' - and gets through.  During an audition, Aidan helps a fellow candidate (Jim Parsons, TV's 'The Big Bang Theory'), setting up, for once, a realistic closing development.  His fulfillment of Gabe's last request (for an Almond Toasted) is genuinely touching and his imaginary astronaut reveries work because he's defined them as fantasy.

With "Wish I Was Here," Braff has made a coming of age saga for a grown man.  It works in part, his central theme a good one, but his more puerile filmmaking tendencies weaken its impact.  Hudson, however, is excellent, the most mature element of a too fanciful film.

C+
Back To Current Show
Next Show Previous Show
Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!

Home | Reviews and Ratings Archive  | Top 10 | Video | Crew | Article | Links

Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.

MRQE Top Critic Badge