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Disney’s newest animated feature has the potential to pull on the heart strings of older viewers, but may stir up a bit of controversy.
I was unsure of and somewhat apprehensive about what to expect from “Wish”, Disney’s first 2D animated film since “Winnie the Pooh” released in 2011. Although I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with anticipation, considering the varying quality of the studio’s recent releases, I was intrigued to see what they would come up with since the trailer was somewhat promising. And although I wasn’t exactly blown away, I was pleasantly surprised to find my expectations exceeded.
Throughout “Wish” we follow the story of Asha, a plucky young girl played by Ariana DeBose as she struggles to free her city from malevolent forces. As is tradition, she must face a powerful villain with the odds stacked against her. You know the drill. One of the movie’s best attributes are the hilarious antics of Asha and her sidekicks, an anthropomorphized star and a talking goat, throughout their quest. Best of all is the appearance of Alan Tudyk, voicing Valentino (the talking goat), who steals the show and who also had audiences raving over his role as a chicken in “Moana.”
The humor is definitely one of the movie’s biggest selling points. I was surprised to find myself actually laughing out loud several times. I think audiences will be consistently entertained by its witty dialogue and endearing band of characters. Yes, the storyline was a bit predictable, but the characters are lovable and the conclusion is ultimately heartwarming and satisfying.
Although the plot isn’t exactly revolutionary, over the past few years it's become clear that the studio was going to be including more direct, socially progressive moral undertones and subtext into their scripts. Examples of this can be seen throughout their more recent movies like, “Elemental” that not-so-subtly addresses immigration, or “Zootopia” that also took a similar approach to addressing racism. And “Wish” is no exception.
Now here’s where things get interesting and ironic in my opinion, because it seems as though the studio is attempting to communicate an anti-capitalist message via heavy handed subtext throughout the film. Just let that sink in for a minute. The most prominent theme presented throughout the movie is the idea that as children grow into adults, they forget to chase their dreams. Instead becoming complacent with giving up a part of themselves to a system and settling for only what they have.
At its core, there isn’t anything wrong with this message. In fact, I even think it’s a great one for children and adults alike. However, I couldn’t help but notice the somewhat glaring irony of that particular message being communicated via Disney, one of the most prominent and most profitable companies in the world. As of writing this review The Walt Disney Company has a net worth of $172.93 billion. Regardless of one’s political stance, one of those things does not support the other.
This is rather unfortunate given that the movie is certainly entertaining and I did genuinely enjoy it, but this is somewhat overshadowed by the irony. It is this particular ideological discrepancy, I think, that has the potential to land the studio in a bit of hot water, especially with gen z and younger millennial audiences given their general attitude towards capitalism as a whole. So with this in mind, it seems unlikely that a film essentially condemning capitalism, produced by a massive company, is going to be well received by some older audiences.
Despite this juxtaposition I do think that younger audiences, who are unable to understand complex economic systems, will enjoy “Wish” immensely. Ariana DeBose gives a remarkable performance as Asha and the shenanigans of her two sidekicks are sure to be a hit with most children and adults. The soundtrack is everything one might expect out of an animated Disney musical, with fun intro songs like “Welcome to Rosas” and inspiring ballads like “This Wish.”
It is no secret that Disney can at times be a little (or a lot) tone deaf, but nevertheless the studio does still manage to make touching movies with heart. Although “Wish” is not my favorite by a long shot, it is definitely not their worst film. “Wish” has several scattered references to Disney classics such as Snow White that will yank on that good old nostalgia for parents and will (hopefully) still remind them of what it was like to wish upon a star.