Wish‘s biggest problems were predicted by another Disney blockbuster that hit theaters four years ago, though those same fatal flaws seem to be plaguing a lot of the company’s recent releases. Officially Disney’s second-straight Thanksgiving weekend disappointment, Wish has been underwhelming, to say the least. A self-aware exploration of the dangers of idealism, Wish sees its protagonist, Asha (Ariana DeBose), coming face-to-face with the lies that underpin the Kingdom of Rosas. One of Rosas’ leaders, King Magnifico (Chris Pine), is also an accomplished sorcerer — one who can grant his subjects’ greatest desires, if he so chooses.

That is, Rosas’ subjects give up their wishes, allowing Magnifico to pick and choose which to grant. Eager to make her grandfather’s wish come true and secure an apprenticeship with the sorcerer-king, Asha interviews with Magnifico and learns of his ongoing deception. Feeling helpless, Asha wishes on a star — one that ends up joining Asha on her quest to retrieve her family’s wishes and subvert Magnifico. It’s fitting that Wish, a charming-yet-flawed ode to Disney’s past, hit theaters during the company’s 100th anniversary. However, despite the studio’s best attempts, the magic is wearing thin — and has been since at least 2019.

There’s no doubt that Wish recycles a lot of the classic Disney formula. After all, it’s a template that’s worked since 1937’s Oscar-winning Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — Walt Disney’s (and Hollywood’s) first feature-length animated film. Of course, Wish‘s divisive Rotten Tomatoes score tells a clear story: for many, the so-called “Disney magic” is missing from this installment. Boasting Walt Disney Animation Studios’ worst aggregate score in nearly two decades, Wish‘s mixed reactions aren’t entirely surprising either. Frozen 2, the 2019 sequel to the “Let It Go”-boasting phenomenon, wasn’t quite the follow-up sensation Disney had hoped for.

While critics had more love for the sequel than Wish, there’s no denying that Frozen 2 was a disappointment, especially compared to its monster-hit predecessor. Instead of rushing a sequel out the door, Disney took its time, eventually releasing Frozen 2 six years after the 2013 original film. In Frozen 2, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) journey to an enchanted forest to interrogate a mystery that’s connected to the origins of Elsa’s powers — and a darker part of Arendelle​​​​​​​’s colonial history. Unfortunately, despite tackling some incredibly important themes, Frozen 2‘s messy lore and world-building got in the film’s way, which isn’t unlike Wish‘s missteps.

Living up to Frozen‘s $1.334 billion box office success was a tall order. On the commercial side of things, Frozen 2 actually managed to outdo its predecessor, grossing $1.453 billion. Still, the level of success wasn’t quite the same; the first Frozen film was a phenomenon that ushered in a new era of success for the studio, while the sequel didn’t quite have the same enduring pop-cultural impact. After Frozen 2‘s release on streaming, Disney debuted a behind-the-scenes documentary on Disney+, Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2. As chronicled in the docuseries, Frozen 2 had a lot of behind-the-scenes ups and downs.

The six-episode series follows the production through its development, often orbiting Jennifer Lee, the film’s writer and co-director. As showcased in the very honest docuseries, a mere five months before the film’s premiere, Lee rewrote the script in order to simplify the movie’s intricate mythology and other narrative complexities. In fact, as far along as episode 4 of the series, the team couldn’t decide on key elements of the “Show Yourself” sequence — Elsa’s big emotional song that underpins the whole film. Packed with Disney movie references, Wish also contains traces of Frozen 2‘s fraught narrative. Looking at the end product, it seems history might have repeated itself.

While Frozen 2‘s attempt to be a critique of colonialism is admirable, the film’s baseline story is flawed. The sequel’s narrative leans heavily into the world’s mythology, but only provides a very broad sketch of that mythology. For example, once Elsa enters the enchanted forest, she confronts various beings that embody the four elements, and is seemingly tasked with quelling them. None of that really factors into the actual story — it just kind of exists. It’s clear that the mythology was pared down in various rewrites of the script in order to make the detailed narrative more digestible. However, that watering down ultimately undermines Frozen 2‘s efforts.

Much like Frozen 2, Wish‘s world doesn’t feel fully fleshed out. There are tons of appealing ideas and themes, but everything feels like a sketch — not a finished piece. When that sketch is then grafted on to the generic Disney formula, the entire film feels weaker as a result. In trying to replicate its past successes, Disney follows the Frozen and Moana blueprints too closely, leading the studio to chip away at any new film’s originality or uniqueness. Instead of delving more deeply into what makes Wish a singular, magical film, Disney dilutes a once-nuanced story into its tried-and-not-so-true formula.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *