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Wish (Christian Movie Review)

About The Movie

The narrative that Disney has completely lost its magical touch is challenged by the fact that many of its “modern” films—Moana, Zootopia, Tangled—are quite good. Nevertheless, several recent movies (see Strange World and Lightyear) were emphatically rejected by family audiences due to uninspiring stories and problematic content. The once invincible animation studio is leaking some water and in need of a hit. To that end, Wish feels like Disney’s purposeful (some might say “desperate”) attempt to restore its reputation and earn back some goodwill. Wish may not be a smash hit destined to become a beloved classic, but it’s a reminder that Disney still knows how to weave an enjoyable fairytale.  

In many ways, Wish is a middle-of-the-road Disney movie. It’s not bad, but it never elevates itself into the stratosphere of the classic canon. Whereas the early Disney stories were groundbreaking, Wish feels like an uninspired retread of familiar paths. Rather than telling a “tale as old as time,” Wish seems to tell a narrative about Disney itself, brimming with Easter eggs and playful nods to prior films. These allusions are fun, but also a reminder of the studio’s better days.    

Musically, Wish is hit or miss. There are a few great tunes. The movie’s signature song, “This Wish,” is powerful, and “Knowing What I Know Now” works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the rest of the soundtrack is forgettable. Chris Pine is a fantastic actor, but he doesn’t have the vocal pipes to elevate several lackluster songs. 

The gorgeous visual aesthetic makes a greater impression. The movie blends 3D animation with a delightfully classic 2D style. The beautiful hand-drawn animation style made me yearn for a return to that seemingly abandoned aesthetic.

The characters that populate that artfully animated world are enjoyable too, though they don’t really stand out. Asha (voiced by Arianna DeBose) is capable as the new Disney heroine, but she isn’t given much personality beyond her internal goodness. King Magnifico (Chris Pine) is an amusing but mostly one-dimensional villain. Valentino (a talking goat) is the standout as a fun sidekick who provides effective comic relief. 

Regarding content, Wish is relatively clean, lacking the problematic language or sexual elements that have derailed other recent animated films. But there are a few elements for Christian parents to note. Like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the villain is a magic-user who dabbles in so-called “forbidden” magic. Personally, magic in fairytales does not trouble me, but I know some Christians feel differently. Additionally, like many Disney stories, the film’s messaging reflects a nonbiblical worldview (see “themes” section below).  

Ultimately, Wish is unlikely to displace Frozen on a child’s movie rotation or change disillusioned parents’ minds, but it is a fun adventure. It may lack the inventiveness of Disney’s golden era, but Wish is a charming and enjoyable fairytale.  

On the Surface

For Consideration

       

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Naturalistic Human Origin Stories  

The song “I’m a Star” opens with the lyrics, “Have you ever wondered why you look up at the sky for answers?” To expect a Disney fairytale to provide a biblical or theological answer to that question is wishful thinking. Instead, the film presents a more naturalistic explanation: “See we’re all just little nebulae in a nursery. From supernovas now we’ve grown into our history. We’re taking why’s right out of mystery,” later concluding, “We are our own origin story.” In Wish, characters have a connection with the stars. Beyond the song lyrics, this cosmic relationship becomes a major plot element.  

The nature of the characters’ connection to the stars is not explicitly explained, but the clear implication is that life originated from the cosmos in a way that points toward naturalism rather than creationism. The song is akin to “The Colors of the Wind” in Pocahontas or “The Circle of Life” in The Lion King in that it emphasizes the connectivity of all living things. I don’t think it’s anything a simple, “No son, we’re not actually stars,” won’t clear up, but parents may want to use the film as a conversation starter about human origins and God’s creation. 

Don’t Just Make Wishes, Pursue Them   

Despite being based on Disney’s classic “wishing star,” the film’s message about wishes has been updated. Wish suggests that life is not about passively waiting for our wishes to be granted; it’s about pursuing them. 

In the story, characters surrender their wishes to Magnifico for safekeeping because they fear that they will fail to achieve them. These wishes are depicted as a segment of their lifeforce, a significant part of themselves that is lost when they give it up. Through Asha’s actions, the characters eventually learn that it is the pursuit of those dreams, not merely obtaining them, that gives them life. 

Of course, some Christians may still find this updated messaging to be far too individualistic and self-focused. Although, to be fair, while some of the wishes are trivial (e.g. flying like a bird), many are depicted as being for the collective good (e.g. creating something to inspire the next generation). Even so, is life really about pursuing our own wishes? Disney has always been idealistic in its messaging, rejecting pragmatism in favor of encouraging viewers to follow their heart and dream big. While still in that mold, I think Wish represents a more mature presentation of that classic message.  

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