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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.

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