Promotional image for Disney’s “Wish” Photo: Disney

Disney’s 100th Anniversary Movie Falls Disappointingly Short on its Wish for Greatness

6 mins read

Disney, as a franchise, is a household name, having shaped the childhood memories of many. Its movies, especially its animated faire, have traditionally been held in high esteem. As of the recent year, however, Disney is regarded to have entered a slump, between its much reviled live-action remakes and its controversial “Elemental.” When Disney announced its 100th anniversary film, “Wish,” a tribute to a century of memories and a harkening back to its classic “Disney princess” movies. Unfortunately, as a film and a story, “Wish” is fundamentally empty.

“Wish” falls short in its attempt at a grand sense of scale with no substance to back it up. The cast is massive: the main character, Asha, her seven friends, King Magnifico, Queen Amaya, Asha’s mother and grandmother, and her two non-human companions, Valentino the goat, and Star. Little to no effort is put into fleshing these characters out; Amaya is the archetypal “sympathetic wife,” Asha’s family is simply her family, lacking any other traits, and all of Asha’s friends are defined by one personality facet. If you put a gun to my head and told me to name all of Asha’s seven friends, I could only tell you one. Some characters even feel unnecessary; Valentino, the goat, holds no real bearing on the plot except for being comic relief (a role which is already filled by Star, who is actually relevant to the plot) and the story would have worked just as well if Asha had three friends, rather than seven. 

In turn, this lack of depth makes all the characters feel shallow. At certain scenes that were clearly meant to be emotional, I found myself thinking, “am I really supposed to care about these characters?” I can’t bring myself to care about a bunch of one-note cardboard cutouts, and it’s a shame coming from a studio known for its gripping characters. 

If there’s one thing Disney is known for besides its characters, it is its songs. Disney movie soundtracks are famously beloved; it’s practically impossible to avoid ever hearing one. Sadly, “Wish” falls short in this area as well. Since the success of “Encanto,” Disney has shifted to using pop music in their movies instead of the broadway musical style they are famous for. It is a change for the sake of appearing more contemporary, and not an inherently bad one. To call upon an earlier example – the soundtrack to “Encanto” has been met with much critical acclaim. However, “Wish”’s pop influences are not to its benefit, but to its detriment. Disney is known for its bombastic villain songs that are rich with personality, such as the classics — “Be Prepared” from “The Lion King,” “Hellfire” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,”  and “Friends on the Other Side” from “The Princess and the Frog.” “Wish”’s villain song, “This Is The Thanks I Get!?”, despite its attempts to sell King Magnifico as an imposing villain, is far too cheerful for its own good. The shift in tone at the bridge only comes off as jarring, and does nothing to salvage the song. Even Chris Pine’s strong performance that brims with arrogance can’t save it. 

The cast’s vocal performances are strong overall, with the aforementioned Chris Pine as King Magnifico and Ariana DeBose as Asha shining in particular. Unfortunately, the lyrics that they sing do not match up to the performers’ quality. Julia Michaels’ lyrics have issues with repetitiveness and strange word choices (such as “eloquent dancers” instead of the more commonly used “elegant”). The repetitiveness of the lyrics is an especially glaring problem; the songs felt as if they were repeating the same point over and over again. “I’m A Star” is a particularly bad example; its lyrics consist of teasing a question, answering that question, and then repeating the question and the answer for the rest of the song. It just left me wondering what the point was. 

Perhaps the most tragic thing is, “Wish” isn’t all bad. The animation is stunning as usual, with a watercolor stylization that is unique and refreshing. It makes interesting use of colors, with soulful purples contrasting electric greens. Asha’s design is beautiful, and it’s great to see a Disney lead with braids. It makes it even more a shame it doesn’t belong to a better movie. Maybe we can dream of it, but even a wish upon the brightest star won’t give this movie the substance it sorely lacks.  

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