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disney wish movie reviews

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Disney’s “Wish” is the most aggressive piece of Disney propaganda in years. Sure, they all are to a certain extent, but films like “The Lion King” or even “ Encanto ” stand on their own as stories, whereas “Wish” feels more closely tied to the history of the Mouse House and the power of imagination that fans have found in it than anything the company has ever produced. It’s not just the abundant references to everything from “ Peter Pan ” to “Mary Poppins” to “Bambi” and beyond, but the sense that the entire production is about how we really need to keep wishing on not just stars, but Disney-branded ones, to make ourselves happy. There’s also a reading of a film about a political leader that crushes the dreams of Disney adults that made me think of Ron DeSantis (and even a little Joseph McCarthy), but that’s a different piece.

So where does all this very intentional Disney magic get us? Not as far as when the creators behind Disney films allow the magic to come organically from its characters. I feel like anyone with an annual pass to one of the parks will flip for a movie that my 12-year-old correctly noted was basically a commercial for the Disney 100 anniversary event still unfolding, but there’s still a sense that this is all not just manufactured magic but hollow magic, too. A couple of very strong musical numbers ultimately get “Wish” off the ground after a rocky opening act, but the biggest problem here is that the film ends up being something true magic can never be: forgettable.

Set in an undefined era—although the creators have argued this is the origin for the “wishing star” of Disney fame so a long time ago—“Wish” unfolds in a place called Rosas, a setting that is woefully undefined despite the attractive animation that blends CGI dimension with techniques that look more hand-drawn. Asha (Oscar winner Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story”) is a 17-year-old about to interview for an apprenticeship with the beloved King Magnifico ( Chris Pine ). The King is the keeper of magic in Rosas, a man who can extract the wishes of his flock, keeping them in a chamber high above the city, and choosing one wish in a ceremony to allow to come true. Asha hopes that her 100-year-old grandfather Sabino ( Victor Garber ) will finally have his wish granted, but she discovers that Magnifico isn’t, well, magnificent. He’s more of a hoarder of wishes than a granter, and the most interesting thematic aspect of “Wish” is about how people who promise the world can be manipulative in the fulfillment of those promises.

Of course, Asha isn’t just an ordinary girl who learns about the absolute corruption of absolute power—she becomes a magical figure herself when a wishing star grants her abilities that turn her into a leader for her people. Asha literally wishes on a Star, and said Star comes down to cause chaos and help Asha start a revolution. The first major sequence with the silent Star—a clever choice that feels like something out of Studio Ghibli instead of the typically anthropomorphic exaggerated style of Disney—is a standout as woodland creatures come to life not to assist Asha but to empower her. The idea is that wishes shouldn’t be co-opted by others—they should be what drive us to love, laugh, and live. And when Asha realizes the star is within her, she can overcome evil. A goat voiced by Alan Tudyk helps.

The songs by Dave Metzger , Julia Michaels , and Benjamin Rice likely won’t produce a hit on the level of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” but there are a couple of numbers that work thanks to clever musical composition and thematic thrust. The empowerment song in the woods after finding the wishing star is a bit muddled in storytelling—is she the magical star, or has she been gifted something?—but it’s playful and engaging in a way the movie is too rarely allowed to be. The film also gets a needed boost near the end from another group number in which Asha’s allies sing about what they know now. I could see both of these being a part of a Magic Kingdom stage show before Christmas.

And that probably-planned stage show is at the root of the overall problem with “Wish”—it's all so heavily processed, almost like an A.I. version of a Disney animated movie designed to make not more wishes but more sellable items and experiences. Yes, the machine that is Disney has felt increasingly manufactured in the 2020s—and the truth is that when they go off-book with projects like “ Strange World ,” the families don’t show up—but this one has an almost cynical cash grab air to it. Magnifico’s evil color palette is green, as if the creators are portraying not just politicians but money-focused leaders as the enemy, which is rich coming from a company that is more of an industry than an artistic venture lately.

And that’s what’s disheartening about “Wish.” I’m old enough to have seen several cycles of Disney success and failure—old enough to remember when “The Little Mermaid” was a comeback for the company—and so I’ve seen how the animated canon for this industry giant has shifted and changed. The good stuff comes from within artistic ventures, not from focus-grouped nostalgia. I also love the joy in my kids when they see a Disney movie that really moves them—for the record, my youngest (10) dug this one, my middle (12) was mixed, and my eldest (14) said he almost forgot it before he got home—but the best animated films will always come from a less hollow place than “Wish.” This wish feels like it didn’t fall from the sky but was crafted by a producers' room with an eye for the highest profit margin. It leaves one wishing for something that feels human and true.

In theaters on Wednesday, November 22 nd .

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Wish movie poster

Wish (2023)

Ariana DeBose as Asha (voice)

Chris Pine as Magnifico (voice)

Alan Tudyk as Valentino (voice)

Angelique Cabral as Amaya (voice)

Victor Garber as Sabino (voice)

Natasha Rothwell as Sakina (voice)

Jennifer Kumiyama as Dahlia (voice)

Harvey Guillén as Gabo (voice)

Niko Vargas as Hal (voice)

Ramy Youssef as Safi (voice)

Evan Peters as Simon (voice)

Jon Rudnitsky as Dario (voice)

Della Saba as Bazeema (voice)

  • Fawn Veerasunthorn
  • Allison Moore
  • Jennifer Lee

Original Music Composer

  • Dave Metzger

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2023, Kids & family/Fantasy, 1h 32m

What to know

Critics Consensus

Wish earns some tugs at the heartstrings with the way it warmly references many of the studio's classics, but nostalgia's no substitute for genuine storytelling magic -- no matter how beautifully animated it might be. Read critic reviews

Audience Says

If you're looking for a beautifully animated movie with fun characters and memorable songs, Wish delivers. Read audience reviews

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Wish videos, wish   photos.

Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Wish" is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force--a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe--the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico--to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

Rating: PG (Thematic Elements|Mild Action)

Genre: Kids & family, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy, Animation, Musical

Original Language: English

Director: Chris Buck , Fawn Veerasunthorn

Producer: Peter Del Vecho , Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones

Writer: Jennifer Lee , Allison Moore , Chris Buck

Release Date (Theaters): Nov 22, 2023  wide

Box Office (Gross USA): $61.0M

Runtime: 1h 32m

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Production Co: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Sound Mix: DTS, Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital

Cast & Crew

King Magnifico Voice

Ariana DeBose

Valentino Voice

Angelique Cabral

Queen Amaya Voice

Victor Garber

Sabino Voice

Natasha Rothwell

Sakina Voice

Jennifer Kumiyama

Dahlia Voice

Evan Peters

Simon Voice

Harvey Guillen

Ramy Youssef

Niko Vargas

Bazeema Voice

Jonathan Rudnitsky

Dario Voice

Fawn Veerasunthorn

Jennifer Lee

Screenwriter

Allison Moore

Peter Del Vecho

Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones

Executive Producer

Dave Metzger

Original Music

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Critic Reviews for Wish

Audience reviews for wish.

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Disney Wish 2023 Movie Reviews: Critics Share Strong First Reactions

sha (voice of Ariana DeBose) in Disney Wish movie

Disney hosted press screenings for its 62nd animated theatrical movie, Wish , with critics sharing strong initial reviews for the new outing.

Oscar-nominee Ariana DeBose will team up with former DC / Star Trek fan-favorite Chris Pine and Disney legend Alan Tudyk for Wish , a story about 17-year-old Asha, who wishes on a star that falls from the sky to help her save her kingdom.

The film looks to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary with a suspenseful story featuring themes of betrayal and darkness, with fans hoping to see Disney recover after other films like Strange World flopped badly both financially and critically.

Critics Share Strong Reviews for Disney’s Wish

Disney Wish Asha

Following the first public press screenings for Disney’s Wish , critics shared their first reviews and reactions to the film on X, most of them being quite positive.

Variety’s Clayton Davis highlighted the film’s Easter Eggs and the way it celebrates "100 years of the famed studio" while also praising stars Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine for their efforts, particularly Pine's villain song:

"'Wish' is the celebration of 100 years of the famed studio with Easter Eggs galore. Surprisingly, thematically, it was more rich than I would have anticipated. I'd argue, maybe a little depressing?  Ariana DeBose brings the house down as one of our great modern-day  princesses. Villain song, 'This is the Thanks I Get,' is out of this world by Chris Pine. The foot tapping group number 'Knowing What I Know Now' is my favorite. "This Wish" will likely be the big push. Gorgeous animation."

The Wrap’s Drew Taylor praised the way the film combined "next gen technology with timeless storytelling," teasing something never seen before that also feels like something familiar:

"Combining next gen technology with timeless storytelling, 'Wish' looks like nothing you’ve seen before and feels exactly like your favorite Disney animated feature — whatever it is. A celebration of hope, community and self actualization and 100  years of Disney magic. Loved it"

Variety's Courtney Howard called the film "ENCHANTING & DAZZLING" while highlighting the way Disney "blends classical & modern techniques brilliantly" throughout Wish :

"'Wish' is ENCHANTING & DAZZLING. A magical, inspiring fairy tale & heroine for a new generation. I was swept away by the animation & musical splendor that blends classical & modern techniques brilliantly. Ariana DeBose & Chris Pine shine bright."

Critic Jordie Poblete was "happily surprised" by Wish , praising the "beautiful matte look for its animation" and celebrating how easy the characters are to love while complimenting the music as well:

"Happily surprised at how Disney’s 'Wish' was. Nothing typical about it, from a story that doesn’t let go from the beginning, beautiful m atte look for its animation, characters easy to adore, and a masterful take on 'Disney music' by Julia Michaels. Disney Animation be so proud!!"

Nightmarish Conjuring's Sarah Musnicky proclaimed Wish to have "a message that we can all get behind," celebrating the Star character but also noting that the movie is "not as strong as it could be:"

"'Wish' has a message that we can all get behind. Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, & Alan Tudyk soar. The beloved Star will steal everyone's hearts & trigger cute aggression. That said, it's not as strong as it could be, w/ song & animation choices that lack lasting impact."

Fandom's Eric Goldman described Wish as "a well done and sweet 'take a bow' movie" to celebrate Disney's 100th anniversary, pointing out the deliberate choice to tell "a very classic-style story" that twists things for the modern audience:

"Disney's 'Wish' is a well done and sweet 'take a bow' movie for the 100th anniversary, purposely telling a very classic-style story with some modern twists. My favorite aspects are the delightfully animated silent Star, and King Magnifico, who gets a true villain origin story.

Critic Wendy Lee Szany saw Wish as "a fantastic love letter to Disney classics" with incredible animation, calling most of the main characters "extremely cute" while specifically putting Chris Pine's King Magnifico on a pedestal:

"'Wish' is a fantastic love letter to Disney classics. Gorgeous animation. Ariana DeBose is perfect as Asha, Valentino and Star are extremely cute and will steal your heart, but Chris Pine’s King Magnifico is the one to watch. Full review coming soon.

Filmotomy's Doug Jamieson had high praise for Wish , calling it "a tremendous home run for Disney" while proclaiming it to be "a throwback to classic animated musicals" and a heartfelt tribute to Disney history:

"'Wish' is a tremendous home run for Disney. Beautifully animated and filled with so much heart, it's a throwback to classic animated musicals and a loving tribute to 100 years of Disney. Great songs, a moving story, cute sidekicks, and a dastardly villain. Can't ask for much more."

ComicBook.com's Jamie Jirak used the phrase "pure heart" to describe Wish , giving props to the songs and the voice talent while feeling "the care that went into celebrating Disney's 100th:"

"'Wish' is pure heart. You can really feel the care that went into celebrating Disney's 100th. The songs are great, which is always my main concern. Ariana DeBose sounds amazing, Chris Pine oozes villainous charm, and Alan Tudyk is hilarious. But Star is the star!"

Geeks of Doom's Michael Lee praised how much Wish was "a soaring tribute" to Disney's work with "visual storytelling," telling fans that it "pushes the boundaries in blending traditionally hand-drawn and CG animation:"

"'Wish' is a soaring tribute to all of the Disney’s achievements and advancements in visual storytelling. The film pushes the boundaries in blending traditionally hand-drawn and CG animation. Its emotionally nuanced story radiates & the seven songs are destined to be classics! Wow!"

Nerds of Color's Laura Sirikul didn't hold back, calling Wish "the perfect film for the 100th year celebrating Disney" and congratulating the film's development team while proclaiming that it "will win all the awards:"

"'Wish' is amazing. 'Wish' is the perfect film for the 100th year celebrating Disney. It's inspirational, memorable, and just wonderfully done. The music is just beautiful. So many odes to the films of the past. Congrats to the 'Wish' Team! This will win all the awards."

Will Wish Succeed Upon Its Public Release?

Considering how this film marks a milestone landmark for Disney with 100 years of animated storytelling, the studio is certainly hoping that Wish will be the latest hit the way others like Frozen and Moana were before it.

And especially looking back to how Disney's three most recent releases were all called flops at one point in time , the studio should feel optimistic that it's latest princess-centric films will bring fans back to the glory days.

Additionally, after June's Elemental was ultimately deemed a success for Disney after a rough opening weekend at the box office, the hope is that Wish can continue that same upward trend and even get off to a better start.

And though its stars weren't able to attend the world premiere due to the SAG-AFTRA strike (which was since resolved), Disney will look to ramp up its promotional efforts in the coming weeks to build up hype for potential viewers.

Wish is set to debut in theaters on Friday, November 22.

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IMAGES

  1. Wish List Of Songs

    disney wish movie reviews

  2. Latest Disney News: Breadcrumbs Dropped for an Obscure Disney Original as a Catastrophic Flop

    disney wish movie reviews

  3. Experience the Magic of Disney's 'Wish' With Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine In New [Trailer]

    disney wish movie reviews

  4. A new Disney movie coming called wish by aliciamartin851 on DeviantArt

    disney wish movie reviews

  5. Wish: What We Know So Far About The Upcoming Disney Movie

    disney wish movie reviews

  6. Innovating with the Disney Wish

    disney wish movie reviews

VIDEO

  1. Disney WISH Movie #movieclips #shortsyoutube

  2. DISNEY'S WISH LIED TO YOU

  3. Disney WISH Movie #movieclips #shortsyoutube

  4. Disney WISH Movie #part2

  5. Introducing: Wish

  6. Disney's Wish

COMMENTS

  1. Wish movie review & film summary (2023)

    Reviews Wish Brian Tallerico November 20, 2023 Tweet Now streaming on: Powered by JustWatch Disney’s “Wish” is the most aggressive piece of Disney propaganda in years.

  2. Wish

    Wish is a musical-comedy animated film about a girl who makes a wish on a star and faces a villainous ruler in the magical kingdom of Rosas. Read critics' and audience's ratings, reviews, and ratings of the film, and watch trailers, clips, and photos.

  3. Disney Wish 2023 Movie Reviews: Critics Share Strong First

    Critics Share Strong Reviews for Disney’s Wish Following the first public press screenings for Disney’s , critics shared their first reviews and reactions to the film on X, most of them being quite positive.

  4. ‘Wish’ review: Disney tries to thaw out its ‘Frozen’ magic

    It’s rated PG. More than 70 years after Disney had a cricket sing about wishing upon a star, “Wish” picks up that theme, in an animated movie that desperately wants to thaw out some of the...