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  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Disney

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Disney’s 100th birthday shindig is catchy but disposable

Not a glorious centenary classic but hardly the egregious bomb of repute either, Wish is Disney celebrating its 100th birthday in so-so style. It’s a normcore fairy tale with a bare-bones plot that gestures at bygone classics like Pinocchio without doing enough to be worthy of comparison. I enjoyed its colourful world-building, the sparky voice cast – especially Ariana DeBose as the hero, Asha, and Chris Pine’s Trumpy villain – and a faint socialist message that might have Walt turning in his grave.

Pine, especially, is a lot of fun as the voice of Magnifico, the preening, petulant ruler of the Mediterranean kingdom of Rosas. With his manicured looks and dark sorcery, he’s like Saruman with a better grooming regimen. He secrets away the deepest wishes of his subjects – given physical embodiment as bulbs of light – in his tower, promising to grant them all... eventually. 

Of course, as 17-year-old Asha (West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose) quickly discovers, he’s intent on keeping them all for himself. Which, as Disney villain plans goes, isn’t quite up there with turning puppies into a coat or putting a curse on a baby, but still galvanises Asha into summoning a wish-granting Star from the firmament to bring justice to the land.

The preening Magnifico is like Saruman with a better grooming regimen

Despite the passive nature of his foul(ish) scheme, Magnifico is Disney’s best villain since Tangled. The screenplay, by Allison Moore and Frozen’s Jennifer Lee, makes him a populist type who’ll be all-too familiar these days. The Star Trek actor gives him a whiny entitlement that gets full airing in his big musical number ‘This is the Thanks I Get?!’, one of a handful of strong tunes by songwriters Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice.

The best of them, the rabble-rousing ‘Knowing What I Know Now’, feels like Disney’s answer to ‘Les Misérables’s ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’. Belted out by future EGOT-winner DeBose, with back-up vocals from Angelique Cabral as Magnifico’s estranged queen, it’s charged with a surprising sense of political awakening and recasts the dream-hoarding Magnifico as the kind of greedy monopolist that the ungenerous viewer might even compare with Disney itself. 

Less successful is the mash-up of 2D and 3D animation, an attempt to pay homage to Disney’s hand-drawn house style that doesn’t come off, and a goat sidekick who gets to talk but has nothing funny to say. When even Alan Tudyk can’t rinse laughs from a sidekick role, your script probably needs another sprinkle of magic.

In cinemas worldwide now.

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Cast and crew

  • Director:Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
  • Screenwriter:Jennifer Lee, Allison Moore
  • Cast:
    • Chris Pine
    • Ariana DeBose
    • Alan Tudyk
    • Angelique Cabral
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