If Disney magic isn't your cup of tea or if you're a bit of a skeptic, the new animated musical "Wish" might not be your ideal choice. For those still interested, "Wish" (rated PG; in theaters Wednesday), directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, is a classic Disney tale packed with catchy tunes and a heartwarming narrative. While it may border on excessive Disney charm for even the most ardent fans, Ariana DeBose's performance as a plucky, aspirational young protagonist brings a welcome vibrancy and vocal prowess to the film.
Set on the Mediterranean island of Rosas, the story revolves around King Magnifico (Chris Pine), a sorcerer who safeguards the inhabitants' cherished wishes. As the community prepares for a wish-granting ceremony, Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose), a local tour guide and aspiring apprentice to Magnifico, dreams of seeing her grandfather's wish come true on his centennial birthday. However, her curiosity about the wish-granting process angers the controlling Magnifico.
Disheartened, Asha makes a wish upon a star, leading to the arrival of Star, an energetic, twinkling entity. Star's arrival endows the local fauna, including Asha's goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk), with speech, but also stirs Magnifico's fears, prompting him to resort to dark magic.
With a concise 95-minute runtime, "Wish" packs its story tightly, focusing mainly on Asha's development. Magnifico’s character shift from likable to detestable is swift, leaving little room for nuanced development. The musical numbers, crafted by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice, range from the upbeat "Welcome to Rosas" to the villainous "This Is the Thanks I Get?!" The standout track, "This Wish," is sure to be a hit among young audiences.
DeBose shines as Asha, infusing the character with warmth and vigor, matching the commanding presence of renowned Disney characters like Elsa. Her performance is a highlight, showcasing her theatrical experience and undeniable charm.
"Wish" is part of Disney’s centennial celebration and is filled with references to its rich animation history, including Asha's seven distinct companions. These nods are mostly clever and engaging, with a focus on younger viewers who will likely be more captivated by Valentino's antics than Magnifico's tyranny.
The film cleverly weaves in the familiar tune of "When You Wish Upon a Star," enhancing its nostalgic appeal. "Wish" is a delightful homage to Disney's legacy, targeting those nostalgic feelings and providing a family-friendly, enchanting experience.
In summary, "Wish" embraces its Disney roots, offering a charming and musical journey that resonates with those fond of the classic Disney formula. It's a film that proves no matter who you are, the magic of Disney can still touch your heart.