Wish Movie's Bad Reviews Explained: 4 Biggest Criticisms (Why It's So Bad)

By Klein Felt Posted:
Wish Asha with star

Disney's Wish is now streaming on Disney+, with new viewers who may have missed the movies in theaters wondering what big criticisms attributed to the film's negative reviews. 

Debuting back in November 2023, the animated blockbuster was widely panned upon release, earning a dismal 49% Tomatometer rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Serving as a celebration of 100 years of Disney, Wish follows a young girl named Asha (Ariana Debose) as she takes on the sorcerer king Magnifico (Chris Pine) who is secretly harboring peoples' wishes with no plan to grant most of them.

[ Full Cast of Disney's 2023 Wish Movie: Every Main Character & Voice Actor (Photos) ]

Why Disney's Wish Movie Is 'Bad' (According to Some Critics & Fans)

Asha in Wish movie

With Wish now on streaming, fans are revisiting Disney's latest animated misfire. 

After its release, the movie did not earn a good reputation, being seen by many as one of the studio's biggest flops on the back of countless bad reviews. 

So, for those who may have missed the conversation when Wish was in theaters, here are the biggest criticisms being levied at the film:

An Over-Emphasis on Disney Easter Eggs

The biggest complaint people seem to have with Wish is its overreliance on Disney Easter eggs and fan service. 

Throughout the movie, there are nods to the House of Mouse's storied history, as the film was released as a part of Disney's 100th birthday celebration. 

These include everything from the subtle (like a nod to Maleficent's magic being wielded by Chris Pine's Magnifico) to the pretty overt (a straight-up cameo of Peter Pan). 

In an exclusive interview with The Direct, Wish executive producer Peter Del Vecho pointed to a concerted effort to "evoke everything" that fans "love about Disney animated movies for the past 100 years," but whether that was successful is up to the viewer.

Instead of seeing these Disney references as a celebration of the studio's past, large swaths of the audience found the Easter eggs distracting. 

In his review, Eric Marchan of Cinema Seen described many moviegoers' feelings when seeing Wish, saying, "When you remind audiences of classic movies...it takes away from what’s being played in front of them:"

"When you remind audiences of classic movies they grew up with, even as an Easter egg, it takes away from what’s being played in front of them. You’d rather watch the reference. And that’s the biggest problem. The film has no identity of its own."

Sean Collier of Pittsburgh Magazine echoed this sentiment, positing that Wish is "so determined to be a Disney movie that it forgets to be a good movie."

And that seems to be the nut of it. Because Wish is so focused on adding as many references to Disney's past as possible, it feels like a thin imitation of things that came before, rather than something unique in and of itself. 

A By-The-Numbers Villain

Another major criticism people have with Wish is its forgettable and formulaic villain. 

Chris Pine's King Magnifico is nothing but an evil man doing things for no real reason other than being evil. 

After getting sorcerer powers during the film's storybook-style opening, Pine's animated royal builds the kingdom of Rosas as he takes the "burden" of peoples' hopes and dreams (aka wishes) from them. 

He is said to hold these wishes for safekeeping only to eventually grant them to lucky citizens when he deems them worthy. 

However, it is quickly revealed (only about 20 minutes into the movie) that he has no intention of granting the great majority of these wishes, sending Ariana Debose's Asha on a quest to free the wishes and take down the king. 

This 'evil' turn happens fast and without much motivation. He is simply keeping the wishes because he says so. 

While there are teases of a deeper motivation, the movie never fully explores them. 

As Austin Burke from Fan Nation sums it up in his review, Pine's "[villain] arc goes nowhere," resulting in a story that "feels rushed, scattered, and extremely familiar:"

"'Wish' features plenty of classic Disney nods, a great performance from DeBose, and two solid musical numbers. Unfortunately, this story feels rushed, scattered, and extremely familiar. The villainous arc goes nowhere, and the spark is somewhat missing."

Not to say Disney villains like Jafar (Aladdin) or Ursula (The Little Mermaid) had these sympathetic multi-layered stories, but there was at least some level of motivation for why they were doing what they were doing. 

Magnifico is essentially holding the citizens of Rosas hostage because he can and nothing more. 

Forgettable Songs

For a studio that is so well known for its original music, Wish is a big miss on this front according to its detractors. 

The songs in Wish are viewed as a far cry from the classics of Disney's vast library (i.e. "Part of Your World," "Let it Go," or "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"). 

Chris Wasser of the Sunday Independent described the movie's music as "knotted, entirely forgettable" ventures:

"The songs are knotted, entirely forgettable, and the iffy watercolour/computer animation hybrid gives Wish an awkward, unfinished look. Pity."

Wish's songs - written by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice - are weaving, sometimes labyrinthian arrangements, sporting unusual lyrical motifs and musical stylings unfamiliar to the general Disney audiences. 

There are some highlights, like the show-stopping "This Wish" and the ensemble-led "I'm a Star." But in a movie that is so dominated by its music, it is hard to call it a success when only a select few songs will have audiences going back for repeat listens. 

Even the score itself fails to land for many. It is an original composition, but features touches of Disney's "If You Wish Upon a Star," and ultimately boils down to hints of that beloved tune without ever giving fans the satisfaction of the whole thing (aside from a post-credits nod). 

No Real Character Arc for Its Protagonist 

Not to say these other cinematic sins would be forgiven if this one was not a problem, but it would do a lot. 

Throughout many of Wish's bad reviews, the movie's "shallow" story is referenced, and a big part of that is the lack of any real character arc for Asha its primary protagonist. 

Asha, played by Oscar-winner Ariana Debose, starts and finishes the film in very much the same place.  There is no real lesson learned or shocking revelation that sticks with Asha long after the credits roll. 

Everything in Wish seems to involve Asha, but the character sees no real change throughout the movie.  She is introduced in the fill with her wish still in her heart, looking to grant the wishes of the people around her, and ends just the same.

Seattle's Child writer Candice McMillan called this character arc for Ashsa "hopelessly shallow," playing into an overall "dreamless plot:"

"Filled with catchy new songs and featuring a classic Disney storyline, 'Wish' is a whole heaping of heart that’s completely underbaked. There is much to commend about its sweet story and good intentions, but 'Wish' is shattered by a dreamless plot and hopelessly shallow character development."

Debose's character is endearing but with no internal change of any kind, it does make the story of Wish feel like something that merely happens around its main character than something that happens to her. 

Are the Wish Criticisms Warranted?

Of course, everything is subjective, so some people will see the bad Wish reviews and nod in agreeance while others less so. 

Every one of these big criticisms is warranted, but to what extent will vary from viewer to viewer.

Wish is far from a masterpiece, but it is a movie that has some fun moments, a few memorable songs, and great performances from across its cast. 

If the movie had not been branded as this culmination of 100 years of storytelling, it likely would not have received the fervent backlash that it did. 

But because of its elevated place in Disney canon, expectations were quite high. 

Wish is a perfectly fine Disney movie, but in a catalog as great as that of Disney Animation, it pales in comparison to most of its true-blue classics. 

Wish is now streaming on Disney+.

Read more about Disney's latest animated movie:

Why Wish Movie Has So Many Disney Easter Eggs, Explained by Filmmakers (Exclusive)

Will Wish 2 Happen? Disney Director Responds to Sequel Prospects (Exclusive)

Wish: How Asha Differs from Other Disney Princesses, Explained by Director (Exclusive)

- In This Article: Wish
Release Date
November 22, 2023
Ariana DeBose
Chris Pine
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.