★★★ out of ★★★★★
Sure, it’s dumb, but it’s a fun dumb.
Directed by John R. Leonetti.
Hey, life’s not all kale salads and carrot sticks. Sometimes you want a big piece of cake or an excessively large pile of cookies. Wish Upon is the cinematic equivalent of that pile of cookies. Ain’t no vitamins or minerals here and it’ll probably make your brain fat, but too much thinking is bad for you anyway. I’m sure I read that somewhere.
This movie doesn’t blaze any new trails or challenge any clichés. It’s “The Monkey’s Paw” meets the Final Destination franchise, but picture that meeting taking place farther along the Final Destination series when the movies weren’t quite as good. The acting by the supporting cast is uneven; Sherilyn Fenn [TV’s Twin Peaks (1990-1991 & 2017)] phones in her small part as the neighbor, Mrs. Deluca, while Ryan Phillippe [Cruel Intentions (1999), TV’s Shooter (2016-2018)] does a great job as Jonathan Shannon, the main character’s junk-selling dad. Some scenes feel artificially stretched out just to play up the tension and the special effects can be a bit lacking. Especially for a movie that had an actual budget. Though maybe folks like Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn, and Elisabeth Röhm cost more these days than I thought.
So… why should you see it?
Well, first, it might be completely unoriginal, but it’s still a fun story. Wish Upon tells the tale of Clare Shannon [Joey King; TV’s Fargo (2014-2015), Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)], a high school nobody. Her mother, Johanna [Elisabeth Röhm; TV’s Law and Order (2001-2005), Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014)], committed suicide twelve years ago when Clare was a child. Since then Clare’s lived with her dad, Jonathan, who apparently scrapes out a living picking through trash and selling what he finds at local flea markets.
Jonathan finds a fancy Chinese music box in the trash outside a local mansion, cleans it up, and gives it to Clare, who’s just come home from a pretty standard day of being bullied by the popular kids and hanging out with her two best friends, Meredith [Sydney Park; TV’s The Walking Dead (2016-2018)] and June [Shannon Purser; Netflix’s Stranger Things (2016-2017)]. As luck would have it, Clare’s been learning Chinese in school so she’s able to translate a little of what’s written on the box. It says something about “seven wishes”…
Naturally, each wish comes with a pretty steep price and, before she knows it, Clare’s neck deep in death and bad juju. Joey King does an excellent job playing Clare; the more she wishes, the deeper her addiction digs in. Even Jerry O’Connell [Scary Movie 5 (2013), Veronica Mars (2014)] gets in on the action as one of the box’s previous owners. This thing is a music box, but it might as well be heroin as the user’s need grows so large there’s barely any room in their life for anything else.
One of the best things about these “cursed object” movies is the back story of how the object was made and how it got its power. For all of its possible faults, Wish Upon doesn’t skimp when it comes to setting up a suitable legend for the music box’s backstory. Bubonic plague, mysticism, and Chinese demons (or, “yaoguai”) feature prominently in the history and add a creepy, malevolent flavor to the whole movie.
Sound quality is great — as it should be with the budget they had — and the camera work, while it won’t be winning any awards for innovation, gets the job done. Wish Upon is actually rated PG-13 so it’s definitely a good candidate for a gateway movie into the “Be Careful What You Wish For” sub-genre.
Whip up some popcorn, grab a frosty beverage, and give your brain a 90 minute vacation. It just might have you looking a little differently at those things you found at the antique shop the other day.