By: Kevin Jordan
Kind of some obvious wishes did not get made.
Sometimes, you have to be in the right mood to enjoy a movie, especially a bad one. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to a podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno and it is arguably the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life. I’ve seriously considered not listening to it during my daily drive to work because it’s put me in tears more than once and that makes it hard to see the road. Point being, I was in a very good mood the day of the screening for Wish Upon and it was a very good thing that I was in such a good mood. In other words – it was definitely a Movie for Me.
Another thing that helps a person enjoy a movie is seeing it with a good audience. I’ve sat with some terrible audiences for bad movies and it made me hate the movie that much more when I should have at least been enjoying it for the terrible shit that it was. A year later and I still have dreams about pushing some Ghostbusters audience members off a bridge. Not a tall bridge, but tall enough to make them think long and hard about what they did.
Anyway, the audience for Wish Upon was great for a couple of reasons. First, they reacted appropriately throughout the movie. There were no idiots screaming in fear at a movie that was in no way, shape, or form scary. Instead, everyone was laughing at the copious amounts of humor, both intentional and unintentional (it’s really hard to say how much was intended). Second, people were chatty. Usually, chattiness isn’t a good thing in a theater, but some movies practically demand it. Bad Moms was far funnier if you saw it with a theater full of buzzed moms drinking wine and heckling the movie. Similarly, Wish Upon is much more fun with people murmuring during the death count downs (I’ll explain in a moment) and audibly cringing in anticipation at the novelty death about to occur. I mean, how else are you going to have fun at a horror movie that didn’t even have the decency to be rated-R?
(Note: at 10pm Mountain Time on Wednesday, July 12, there are zero reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes for Wish Upon. Not a good sign for a movie that opens on July 14. Also, SPOILER ALERT. I am going to talk about the final wish in this movie.)
The entire premise of Wish Upon is Aladdin’s lamp, but with seven wishes instead of three. Also, the lamp is actually a music box covered in ancient Chinese writing that only opens when it’s time for someone to die and the genie is an ancient demon that you never get to see (unless you count the carving on the inside of the lid). Roughly halfway through the movie, we get the complete rule set when convenient-character-fluent-in-ancient-Chinese shows up to translate. She’s cool though because she accepts payment in the form of wontons (I did not make that up). The rules are that each wish is paid for in blood (translation: someone dies), the wisher pays with their own life after the seventh wish, and if the wisher ignores, neglects or abandons the box, all their previous wishes are undone (though, neglect and ignore are quite the subjective terms. How long before it’s considered either of those things?). Please take note that there are no restrictions on what can be wished for (or wonton girl missed some lines), which is important when it comes to defeating the rules.
Typically, the arc of a movie such as this would go – person discovers power, person uses power to get what they want, everything is cool for a while, things start to go horribly wrong for person, person tries to undo or destroy power, person lives or dies after a whole lot of carnage, end of movie. Wish Upon tweaks that formula into something kind of fresh – person unknowingly uses power to get she wants, a death occurs, person unknowingly uses power to get what she wants, a death occurs, lather, rinse, repeat. In fact, our wisher, Clare (Joey King) doesn’t seem to know about the power until at least her third wish, if not fourth. I really liked that she didn’t get to spend a bunch time living it up on multiple wishes before the inevitable crash. It’s like if on the Price is Right, the models swung a baseball bat at your prizes thirty seconds after you won them.
I also like that the demon never manifests itself into something tangible. The music box was the one genuinely creepy thing in the film and showing us the actual demon responsible for it would have been a travesty and cheapened the movie (admittedly, it’s a pretty cheap movie to begin with). Most importantly, it would have changed the solution to the problem to defeating the demon instead of the much more satisfying solution we actually got in the form of an idiot teenager trying to wish her way out of being responsible for six deaths.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure if the seventh wish was moronic screenwriting or just avoiding writing something clever. Remember, after the seventh wish, the wisher dies (and Clare is well aware of this), but before that, Clare has to face the fact that she’s a murderer. The obvious solution to both problems is “I wish I never made any wishes.” Or “I wish this music box never existed.” Or “I wish that wishes on this box never resulted in dead people or anything bad happening.” Wouldn’t it have been interesting to see how that wish played out? Instead, Clare uses her last wish to go back in time to just before her dad finds the box. Really? It wouldn’t have been so bad if Clare hadn’t verbalized “I know what to wish for now” after watching the sixth person die. No, you don’t, Clare.
Like I said, this was a Movie for Me. The dialogue is mostly bad and the acting is worse than the dialogue. This includes Ryan Phillipe (playing Clare’s dad), who appears to have forgotten how to act even though his character is 90% hobo, and a thirty-year old Ki Hong Lee failing at playing a teenager (Clare’s friend Ryan). Then, there’s the rest of the story, which is riddled with inconsistencies, bad high school clichés (seriously, I want to visit the school where ass holes fling full drinks at people in plain view of everyone), and a muddled rule set that includes killing random people rather than tying them to the wishes somehow (big miss there, writers). But the film makes up for these deficiencies with the things I mentioned above, plus some hilarious novelty deaths and a Jerry O’Connell cameo that is the pinnacle of unintentional comedy. In the end, I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome from watching this movie.
Rating: Ask for five dollars back because no audience will make this movie worth full price.