Wish Upon Review
The gift that keeps on taking
Wish Upon probably started off as a great idea but somewhere along the way that got lost and any hope of a decent movie went straight out the window.If American film and television has taught us anything it’s that life for certain high school students can be hell - that is unless you’re rich, popular and/or beautiful. Not really fitting into any of the aforementioned categories - strictly speaking - is Claire Shannon (Joey King). Her mother died when she was very young leaving her with her former jazz musician and teacher father, who has now taken to dumpster diving to raise her, much to her utter embarrassment. All things considered, Claire’s life isn’t really that bad at all; she has a fairly comfortable home life where she is able to enjoy being creative, like her mother, and although not one of the ‘cool kids’ she has a small circle of close friends.But when Claire is given an old Chinese wish box as an early birthday present, she soon realises what she’s been missing out on. Unaware of the power she has in her possession Claire makes an off the cuff wish not giving it much thought - but when she soon discovers that it came true she makes sure that every subsequent wish counts - that is, every wish typical of a teenage highschooler. But of course things aren’t that simple. This is no tale of Aladdin with a charming and funny blue genie in a lamp. Oh no, with every wish Claire makes there is an associated cost (insert moral here) and so the people closest to her start paying the price for her empty, materialist wishes.
Wish Upon is not entirely sure what it wants to be: a horror film or just another teenage, Dawson’s Creek type high school flick. It attempts to carefully balance both genres but ultimately never fully manages to deliver on either. For a film that does present itself as a horror/thriller it spends far too much time dwelling on unnecessary exposition and an elaborate backstory that comes off as laughable. The music used in the film is extremely jarring, further enhancing its look as a young teen-like soap opera, and used to blatantly accentuate the action on screen – not that it ever needed extra explanation. The few moments when it does try to deliver on the horror aspect end up looking and feeling like something from one of the Final Destination films - but muted down so that younger audiences can watch. The main story line coming from the wish box itself could actually make for a descent film but writer Barbara Marshall and director John R. Leonetti seem to have gotten themselves lost along the way. The wish box is never used to its full potential; granted it is shown to have some sort of life of its own, but you can’t help feeling like it could have been so much better.
Any decent performances get lost under pointless backstory and canned horror clichés
With Claire at the centre of the narrative everything is assumed to be predominantly from her point of view, and while King is completely competent as an actress, you rarely feel any an emotional connection to her or any other members of the cast for that matter. This in turn winds up making it extremely difficult to maintain any engagement, which isn’t helped by the complete lack of suspense or tension - or by the bizarre performance from Ryan Phillippe who play’s Claire’s father Jonathan. Phillippe as the saxophone playing (this scene is hugely laughable for all the wrong reasons), embarrassing bin raiding father - who weirdly keeps referring to Claire as ‘Buddy’ - is forgettable and completely miscast in this role. The small saving grace comes from Claire’s two best friends June Acosta (Shannon Purser of Stranger Things) and Meredith McNeil (Sydney Park) who offer up the comedy and moral relief but ultimately end up left drowning in a sea of half finished narrative threads and nonsense. Making a brief appearance is Sherilyn Fenn as the loveable next door neighbour and surrogate mother Mrs. Deluca - but I personally would much rather see her dancing around a jukebox in the R’n’R Diner.
Wish Upon is one of those films where you keep hoping that eventually it’ll get going and get better - but it never does. You hope that something unexpected and outside of the box (no pun intended) will happen, that maybe if you hold out till the end it will get good. But no, it doesn’t. The idea is great and could have lead to an awesome film, which only makes it that much more frustrating by the time the end credits start rolling.
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