17 year-old Asha (voice of Ariana DeBose) is an enthusiastic tour guide for the city of Rosas, established on an island by King Magnifico (voice of Chris Pine) as a place for all peoples to make their dreams come true. Magnifico even became a sorcerer in order to safeguard his peoples’ wishes, which they give to him and forget until the day he might make them come true. But when Asha, championed by Queen Amaya (voice of Angelique Cabral) as the frontrunner for the position of the King’s assistant, asks him during her interview if he might grant her grandfather Sabino’s (voice of Victor Garber) wish on his 100th birthday, she will see that the King is anything but benevolent and becomes determined to get back her grandfather’s “Wish.”
Laura's Review: C+
Writers Jennifer Lee ("Frozen") and Allison Moore delve into Disney history for the studio’s latest animation, taking inspiration from the famous “Pinocchio” theme song, “Sleeping Beauty’s” vain villain Maleficent and a long line of animal sidekicks, while also catering to its more recent, inclusive works and the result is neither here nor there, a forgettable rehashed mishmash. DeBose is in fine voice for several generic Disney-style songs, although Magnifico’s ‘This Is the Thanks I Get’ and Asha and Amaya’s ‘Knowing What I Know Now’ are standouts.
After introducing the seemingly idyllic Rosas, we get our first hint that things may not be as they seem when Asha visits her best friend Dahlia (voice of Jennifer Kumiyama), the king’s baker, to share her nerves over her interview with the king. When the wishes he keeps safe in a secret place within the castle are brought up, Asha observes their friend Simon (voice of Evan Peters), noting he’s become lackluster after handing his over on his 18th birthday.
At first the King and Asha appear the perfect, idealistic pair, but when she mentions her grandfather’s 100th birthday and the fact that his wish has never been granted, the King turns cold, accusing her of impertinence in asking for a favor so soon. That might even seem reasonable, but the King has already shown Asha the people’s wishes, all floating about in bubbles, and her grandfather’s is a delightful one, wishing to leave something behind to inspire future generations. But the King says it is of the type that will never be granted because, in not being specific enough, it is too dangerous and when Asha suggests these wishes should be given back, he grows even angrier. Asha recognizes the face the King has been presenting to the public is a false one, and that in controlling everyone’s wishes, he is amassing power. Fortunately, the King’s Queen also observes the change and becomes an ally. And when Asha wishes upon the stars as her father used to do with her, one descends from the heavens in such a shower of light, the entire island witnesses it. That includes the King, now determined to harness the magic of Star as well.
We never really do find out just what Star’s magic provides, but he is a cute little fellow, just like Asha’s goat companion Valentino (voice of Alan Tudyk) and the other forest animals and ‘magic mushrooms’ which accompany her in song. Asha doesn’t just live with her grandfather, but her mother, Sakina (voice of Natasha Rothwell), whose wish is used as a threat by the King. She also has a passel of age appropriate pals including Hal (voice of Niko Vargas), Safi (voice of Ramy Youssef), Dario (voice of Jon Rudnitsky), the very cynical Gabo (voice of Harvey Guillén) and Bazeema (voice of Della Saba), so shy we never see her until she arrives at just the right times.
Directors Chris Buck ("Frozen") and, stepping up from Disney's animation and art departments, Fawn Veerasunthorn, haven’t tightened a story that feels assembled from used parts, but they have assured the film has a magical look of soft colors, warm light and detailed texture, all occasionally shocked by the neon swirls of energy produced by an increasingly maniacal king. “Wish” should please the kids, but parents might feel a sense of déjà vu.
Walt Disney Pictures releases "Wish" in theaters on 11/22/23.