As a 100th anniversary celebration, Disney’s Wish is rather lackluster. While the studio certainly makes an effort to pay tribute to its extensive history and canon, a majority of the film’s various homages are utterly devoid of substance. A few supporting characters, for example, superficially resemble Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs—a shallow, vapid, insignificant Easter egg akin to the insufferably postmodern “jokes” found in the pop culture “parodies” that plagued the early 2000s (e.g., Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans). The screenwriters’ attempts at deconstructing classic fairytale tropes are moderately more successful. Reimagining “wishes” as aspirations is particularly clever, emphasizing the importance of actively pursuing one’s own goals, as opposed to passively waiting for them to be fulfilled by somebody else (such as Chris Pine’s delightfully villainous tyrant, who magically absorbs the desires of his subjects under the pretense of “protecting” them from the sting of failure).
Despite its generally serviceable premise, however, the movie is absolutely abysmal when evaluated as a musical. By my excessively generous count, it features approximately three decent songs—and that estimate includes a reprise. Several numbers are painfully generic, with lyrics so totally divorced from the context of the surrounding plot that they might as well be impromptu TikTok videos; others are so embarrassingly literalist that they essentially function as expository narration delivered via rhymed verse. There’s a conspicuous absence of even a single instantly iconic showstopper (like “Let It Go”, Frozen’s endearingly enduring earworm), nor do the composers do anything particularly creative with recurring leitmotifs (à la Encanto’s thematic pairing of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and “What Else Can I Do?”).
Perhaps most damning of all, Wish neglects to utilize the medium of animation to its full potential. I can, at least, admire its artistic ambitions; in principle, using computer-generated imagery to emulate traditional hand-painted cels is a novel idea (albeit not terribly innovative—it’s been done before, and with greater success). In practice, on the other hand, these inherently conflicting styles make the action appear unfinished, inexpressive, and visually dissonant. The uninspired boarding—which favors flat framing and inert compositions—only exacerbates this blemish; what good are the infinite possibilities of a fictional world constructed entirely from scratch if you’re just going to “shoot” it like an amateur recording of a cheap community theater production of Into the Woods?
Ultimately, Wish feels obligatory and perfunctory—a jumbled hodgepodge of half-baked concepts hastily assembled to coincide with the Walt Disney Company’s Centennial; unfortunately, the level of quality evident onscreen simply doesn’t measure up to the occasion. This is a multibillion-dollar corporation; it can afford to do better—and owes as much to its unwaveringly loyal fanbase.