A teen girl discovers a magical box that will grant her seven wishes. As she uses her wishes for personal gain, bad things begin to happen to those around her. She discovers an evil entity lives inside the box and may be behind the gruesome deaths
Director: John R. Leonetti.
Starring: Joey King, Ryan Philippe, Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Sherilyn Fenn.
Remember the quote about wishing in one hand? It goes something like “You can wish in one hand, and crap in the other. Wait and see which one gets filled first?” I’m guessing that the people behind Wish Upon know all about it. And guess which one of your hands will get filled first if you have any hopes of this film being any good?
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Wish Upon tells the story of Clare (Joey King) had the misfortune of seeing her mother Johanna (Elisabeth Rohm) commit suicide at a young age. Years later, she’s still tortured by the sight of it as a high school student. In addition to having to live with that memory, Clare also has to deal with the basic every day life of a high school student. She’s got an unrequited crush on Paul (Mitchell Slaggart), who just happens to be going out with Clare’s biggest tormentor, Darcie (Josephine Langford). Clare’s two best friends, Meredith (Sydney Park) & June (Shannon Purser of STRANGER THINGS) help to relieve some of her teen angst, but her father, Jonathan (Ryan Philippe) spends his days foraging through garbage bins for junk to hoard, or to sell (it’s never really clarified) – and that just mortifies her no end. Especially when he does it in front of her school.
But one day Jonathan comes across a pretty unusual box that would make a nice (& free) birthday gift for Clare. The box itself is nicely detailed, and adorned with some Chinese lettering that no one pays much mind to at first. Shortly after receiving it, Clare realizes that she can make wishes to it, and her wishes come true! So, like any teen would do, she wishes for popularity, money, revenge, the love of the boy she has a crush on, etc. But as she revels in her newfound life, she doesn’t realize that for every wish granted, a “blood price” is due, and it’s paid off with the life of one of her friends. Of course, she’s horrified once she finds this out, but despite the mounting evidence that the box is responsible for the deaths of those close to her, she finds it hard to give the box up.
That whole deal about the “blood price” is relative, because as a PG-13 film, Wish Upon isn’t a particularly bloody film. And while we get a few decent kills, they’re all shown after the fact so as to not nudge the violence into R territory. Director John R. Leonetti gets some pretty decent performances from his cast, especially from Ms. King (who is perfectly cast), and Ms. Park (who plays the quintessential sassy best friend role to the hilt). But Barbara Marshall’s script is a tired mashup of any film in the Final Destination franchise & any film in the Wishmaster franchise. There’s absolutely nothing here you haven’t seen before, Wish Upon just treads very familiar territory for the most part.
In addition, the script has the tendency to both forget characters, and change the rules it establishes early on as it sees fit, especially when it comes to the rules that come along with the box. One character’s death isn’t discovered for a few days, but as she seems to be a fairly important part of Clare’s life (& lives right across the street to boot), Clare doesn’t seem too perturbed by her death after she discovers her body (actually, the character is never mentioned again). And at one point, one of Clare’s wishes is just inexplicably reversed! Huh? There’s no mention on the box of that even being possible, and if it was then what’s the point of the film at all?
So while Wish Upon wants to frighten, it serves merely to frustrate. As I mentioned earlier, the plot is tattered and done to death already, but with a bit of effort (and imagination) it could’ve been spruced up for today’s audiences. But besides a glossy look to the proceedings, no such effort is given here. Admittedly, I don’t think the film makers were trying to make a new classic of the genre here. Actually, the film is just right for teens from 14-18 years old, and that’s the audience it was tailored for. Kids are probably gonna love this pablum because they know no better. I know I’m not part of the targeted age group for this film, but does that mean that I have to come away from it unfulfilled? There are gonna be some parents in the audience, so why not throw them a bone while they sit there with their kids?
If you’re older than 18, you’re probably not going to have much fun with Wish Upon. You certainly won’t be scared – I can pretty much guarantee that. But it will entertain (& probably elicit a jump or two) from your kids. If that’s good enough for you, then you have something to do with your teens this weekend. If not, then keep far away from it, let your teens see it with their friends. After all, it was made with them in mind.
And they can have it.
Wish Upon – 1.5 out of 5 shrouds.