A morally reprehensible family feature that teaches the wrong lessons
“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, what’s the most morally reprehensible Disney flick of them all?” Oh, it’s Wish, Disney’s newest animation dropping this November. On the surface though, Wish actually has all the makings to be a sure-fire hit to propel Disney back to the peak of the animation podium. And to be honest, it probably will do pretty well at the box office, all things considered.
The animation blends CG and hand-drawn styles together in a surprisingly compelling manner. The soundtrack is actually not bad, with some good songs in here, and it’s bound to be a hit with families… so where’s the issue? Unfortunately, that comes from the writing, which is not just bad, it’s shocking on a moral level and the lessons it teaches kids. Parents be warned going into this one!
Wish takes place in an unspecified geographical location in the Mediterranean; a utopian city called Rosas where people from all walks of life are welcome to live together in harmony. They don’t pay rent, people are singing and dancing on the street, and they’re generally happy being ruled by the King, Magnifico.
Magnifico is a strong sorcerer who spent his life learning magic and bettering himself after seeing his homeland destroyed by selfish thieves. With his family gone, he founded Rosas on the principles of equality. But there’s a catch. Each resident must hand over their deepest wish when they turn 18 for the King to keep safe.
This wish is kept inside a large dome that houses all the other wishes that look suspiciously like the Memory Orbs from Inside Out. The wisher then has their memory erased of their desire once it’s gone so they leave “without regret”.
Each month, the King grants someone’s wish, complete with a lavish monthly ceremony to celebrate this. The King alone decides what’s best for the city, and which wishes he deems are dangerous, unrealistic or could incite the flames of rebellion to overthrow their little utopia. As one would expect, things like flying, lavish riches or wildly crazy wishes probably aren’t going to be granted.
Step forward Asha, our plucky nerdy-quirky protagonist that’s the freshest clone from the current crop of modern Disney princesses we’ve seen so often in these films since Tangled. Asha is not happy that the King won’t grant her 100 year old grandfather’s wish and sets out to right this wrong. Despite Magnifico explaining why (it’s a rather contrived reason but you kinda understand it), Asha decides to steal that wish, give it to her grandfather, and let his wish be granted.
It’s not until the 50 minute mark where the King starts to “become evil” in the wake of this rebellious plot, if we’re following our moral compasses on this one. Asha is selfishly trying to steal a wish to upset the balance of our happy city (something her own grandfather even reprimands her for at one point). As for Magnifico, he starts to become paranoid and scared he’ll lose everything, so he turns to forbidden magic to make himself more powerful. And naturally, he’s corrupted by thoughts of power, vanity and destruction, which sets him off on “the dark side”.
By the halfway point, you’ll also start cynically noticing all the very-intentional nods to old Disney films. Some are outright mentioned – like that of Peter Pan and Snow White – while others are almost direct rip-offs from other movies. The camera pans when Asha walks over a balcony while singing (ala. Frozen’s Let It Go); Asha running from a flock of deer (like the stampede in Lion King); and Magnifico cackling maniacally, shrouded in green flames and sporting a staff (like Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty). It moves past the point of homage into flat-out key jangling nostalgia – and the film isn’t even subtle about it.
The whole arc for Magnifico’s descent into villainy is rife with contrivances and rushed to the core, especially the ending. Sure, he does become an undeniable villain from the aforementioned point onward, but given his story basically mirrors that of Wanda in WandaVision, it’s a wonder why Disney didn’t choose to go the route of “sympathetic, misunderstood villain” like they did with Marvel’s flick. Especially since Magnifico’s actions here are less reprehensible than Wanda’s.
The biggest problem, beyond all of this though, comes from moral compass in this film. It’s all over the shop. Bruce Almighty came out in 2003 and explored the moral implications of granting everyone wishes and how damaging that would be to society. It had heart, charm and a strong lesson at the end. In Wish however, the writers don’t even bother to go beyond a surface level “King bad, wishes good.” and charge full-steam ahead into their ideological vision of a world rife with moral and societal issues.
There’s no lesson learned here; everyone gets what they want as long as they’re good and being selfish is okay if you justify it in the right way. This film teaches kids that “Anything less than giving everyone everything they’ve ever wanted without hard work, perseverance and skill is bad.” Don’t be fooled by the cutesy animation and soundtrack – this is not a lesson kids should be learning but Wish embraces this with two starry-eyed arms.
Wish releases in cinemas on Wednesday 22nd November nationwide and internationally on the 24th November.
Verdict - 3.5/10