Wish Upon

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 07/14/17 10:19:46

"Ancient Chinese Secret--Meh!"
1 stars (Sucks)

When it comes time to create my year-end list of the worst movies of the year, I generally exclude the usual crop of lame, teen-oriented horror trash from consideration on the basis that I could easily base an entire list around such low-grade junk and would prefer to concentrate on more ambitious works that still managed to screw things up despite having any number of advantages going for them. However, after watching “Wish Upon,” I am seriously considering rethinking that particular approach because even though it is squarely aimed at the least discriminating of teen audiences, it is so artistically shabby, morally dubious and all-around shitty that it is hard to imagine that too many worse films will emerge during the rest of the year.

Our heroine is Clare (Joey King), a teenage girl who is haunted by the suicide of her mother when she was a little girl, mortified that her father spends his days dumpster-diving for would-be treasures and is portrayed by Ryan Philippe and she is the pariah of her entire high school. Things change when Dad brings her home a mysterious octagonal box with Chinese writing on it that he snagged from someone’s trash and she happens to be holding on to it while idly wishing that the class mean girl would just rot. The next day, the bitch is hospitalized with a flesh-eating virus and Clare is overjoyed, her glee tempered slightly by the untimely passing of her beloved pet dog. As it turns out, the box offers its owner seven wishes but every time one is granted, someone close to the owner dies a horrible death as payment—apparently trade imbalance with China extends to magic wishes as well. Before long, Clare is making all of her dreams come true—she makes herself rich and popular and wins the adoration of the school’s deeply bland hunk—and barely notices that people around her are kicking off in gruesome ways for a long time and even then, she refuses to give up the whole wishing thing, instead trying to figure out a way to outfox the ancient curse (okay, it dates from around 1910) before she winds up paying the ultimate price once all the wishes are used up. It all ends on a bleak and unsatisfying note that requires our heroine to act even stupider than she had been up to that point before concluding with one of the more bizarre homages to a lesser Brad Pitt vehicle that you are likely to see anytime soon.

Not to put too fine a point on it but “Wish Upon” is complete crap from beginning to end. The storyline is basically an amalgamation of “Carrie,” the “Final Destination” films and all the variations on “The Monkey’s Paw” that have cropped up over the year’s that fails to offer a single element that would mildly surprise even complete neophytes to the horror genre and our heroine—who is blithely unconcerned even as those she know are dropping like flies around her—is so resolutely unlikable in her myopia that it is impossible to work up even the vaguest degree of sympathy for her. With the central character being little more than a moral vacuum, the film might have worked by transforming the elaborate Rube Golberg-style death scenes into gory black comedy but since the film has elected to go the PG-13 route, they fail to make much of an impact either and the decision to ping-ping between a couple of potential victims to leave us guessing until the last second about who is about to get squashed is just tacky. The usually likable Joey King is a wash as Clare and cult favorites like Sherilyn Fenn and Shannon Purser—a.k.a. Barb from “Stranger Things”—are tossed into the mix without making much of an impact. In fact, the closest that the film gets to actual entertainment value comes from the inadvertently hilarious nature of many of the scenes—in the most ridiculous of the bunch, Clare wishes that her father would be less embarrassing and when we see him next, he has abandoned to dumpster-diving to take up a career as a saxophone player specializing in the kind of smooth riffs usually heard during the Good Parts of 90s-era Shannon Tweed films.

Until it becomes the focus of its own episode of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” there is not a single reason for any viewer of any age to waste even a single moment of their lives on juvenile garbage like “Wish Upon” (and I haven’t even gotten into the racist stuff involving the cousin of a Chinese classmate of Clare’s whose sole character trait of note is an obsession with fried wontons bordering on the pornographic and who winds up impaled on a giant ox statue because why not?.) And yet, some of you may be wondering if I am protesting just a little too much over a film for which I am clearly not part of the intended target audience and want to know just how bad it really is. Maybe this will clear things up in that regard if you are one of those who are doubting me. In one of the more inexplicable moments in a film chock-full of them, there is a flashback recounting the sad and tragic story of a previous owner of the box. As it turns out, this dope is played by none other than Jerry O’Connell in an unbilled cameo appearance of the sort that Bill Murray usually turns in, though in Murray’s case, audiences are generally thrilled to see him turn up. This is a guy whose screen career to date has seen him chasing an errant testicle in “Tomcats,” acting opposite a wacky kangaroo in “Kangaroo Jack” and get castrated by hungry fish in “Piranha 3-D” and yet this is the film that he chooses not to put his name on. If that doesn’t suggest just how crummy “Wish Upon” is, you may well be thick-headed and clueless enough to deserve to go and see it.

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