In the world of Hollywood, it seems that certain genres fall all too easily into something equal to a time loop, their stories rehashed for a new group of unsuspecting moviegoers until they realize only later that their newest love is really a distributive of something much better. Such is the case with Zach Braff's dramedy Wish I Was Here, a film with potential but condemned to all the tropes of its much better predecessors.
Braff assembles a great cast, including Joey King who looks more and more these days like Rachel Weisz. King, Gad, and Braff enjoy good chemistry, keeping the ship afloat even as the story begins to wander early in the second act. Hudson and Patinkin have their moments as well, eventually connecting as Gabe's life begins to ebb. Parsons is only around for a few scenes, but his presence is both perfect for Wish and shows that he may never escape Sheldon Cooper. His appearance represents a lost opportunity for cameo credit. And while this deep cast delivers good performances, Wish doesn't break new comedic ground, settling instead into the drama portion right on time after a funny (but typically Judd Apatow/Cameron Crowe) 30 minutes.
The problem with Wish lies not in its wholesale carving up of previous tear-jerkers This is 40 and Say Anything, but its slow-developing plot sticks around for longer than it should. Blame for this shouldn't just lie upon the shoulders of fellow Garden State alum Myron I. Kerstein but on Braff the Director. He's technically proficient, and this certainly doesn't feel like a $6 million production, its supple aspects courtesy of Cinematographer Lawrence Sher; but any effort to trim the story doesn't feel like it's enough, meandering through a funny first act that suddenly becomes too serious after a rather raucous opening. Audiences will notice all the tropes at play: the long goodbye from dad, the regret of not connecting with parents before their untimely ends, and the promise that parents will do better by their children. Yet with these errors, it's clear Braff has a following: his Kickstarter posse made Wish possible, and if there's anything positive to be taken from this experience, it's that an army of loyal followers can now bring almost any idea to a theater near you (see Veronica Mars).
Wish I Was Here is rated R for language and some sexual content and has a runtime of 120 minutes.
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