|for a bit of Disney magic and music but not for the confused message or its precocious main character
|Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
|Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Evan Peters, Harvey Guillén, Jennifer Kumiyama, Natasha Rothwell, Niko Vargas, Ramy Youssef, Victor Garber
|24th November 2023
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
When Magnifico (Chris Pine) realised he had the power to grant wishes, he founded a country and everyone who lived there gave him their wishes for safekeeping – promptly forgetting what it was they’d wished for.
If he was able to grant their wishes, he would do so, but if not, he would hold onto them, so that his people didn’t have to go through life, knowing they had things they desperately wanted but were beyond their grasp.
But when a young girl, Asha (Ariana DeBose) discovers that rather than granting everyone’s wishes, the King is holding onto most of them, she confronts him and demands that he gives everyone their wishes back.
He says he’s protecting them from a lifetime of disappointment – but she says they should be allowed to take responsibility for their desires – and with the help of a rag-tag group of friends, including a baby goat (Alan Tudyk) and the kind of magic star we all like to wish on, she sets out to challenge the King’s authority.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
On one level, this is a typical Disney confection, with cute characters and catchy – if not memorable – songs.
But while it’s presumably meant to be read as a film about a plucky heroine who helps her compatriots take responsibility for their own dreams, rather than depending on someone else to do the hard work for them, it manifests as a story about a law-breaking teenager who manages to rid the kingdom of its founder – who had been, until her meddling – a perfectly honourable and fair king.
He wasn’t taking advantage of anyone – he wasn’t cheating them – he wasn’t making false claims or promising them what he couldn’t deliver.
If it could help, he did. If he couldn’t – a sign of his own fallibility – he protected them from their own insecurities and fears – he stopped them spending their lives worrying that they would never be able to achieve their dreams.
Is that a bad thing?
It’s only after Asha starts to undermine his authority and challenge his motives that he finally cracks – he’s like the parent who’s pushed to the end of his tether by a child who refuses to listen to his advice not to put a knife in their mouth; a point could come where he’ll eventually shout and snatch the knife out of the child’s hand – does that make the parent a Disney villain?
On this occasion, Disney appears to be cheering on the girl who’s breaking the rules and undermining the authorities, rather than those who are ruling with only the best of intentions towards their subjects.