The 400-Word-Review: Wish I Was Here
By Sean Collier
July 21, 2014
Zach Braff turned to crowdfunding to make Wish I Was Here, apparently determined to tell a story in his way, free of studio oversight. With the aid of more than 46,000 people, he certainly did so. So it’s definitely his fault that Wish I Was Here is no good.
Aidan (Braff) is a failing middle-aged actor insistent on pursuing his dream while wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) supports the family through a glorified data-entry job. Children Grace (Joey King, the film’s undisputed MVP) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) will have to leave their posh, orthodox private school because grandpa Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) is dying of cancer and can no longer afford tuition. Meanwhile, wasted-potential brother Noah (Josh Gad) has all sorts of problems.
If it sounds like a lot to handle, don’t worry; none of those threads even come close to full development.
Braff directed Wish I Was Here, and he is the film’s star. He co-wrote it with his brother Adam. He produced it. Though Avy Kaufman receives the “Casting By” credit, Braff apparently had a hand in that, too. It’d be petty to say that Braff shouldn’t have handled any of those tasks; the direction is fine. But Wish I Was Here desperately needed a more adept actor in its lead role, a co-writer whose surname was not Braff and someone who could’ve pointed out that the finished product is a stuttering slog towards nothing.
It feels like a very personal movie, and it speaks passionately — sometimes through Aidan, sometimes in voiceover and sometimes through a tacked-on bit about spacemen — about themes related to family, finding oneself and living with passion. To say that Wish I Was Here is about any of those things would be wrong, though, as it lacks the focus (even the attention span) to follow-up on much of anything for more than a scene or two. While some performances — especially King, Patinkin and Hudson, but certainly not Braff — are lovely, it’s not worth enduring the film to see them.
The merits of crowdfunding are many; it’s a boon to not only cinema, but the arts in general. Unfortunately, all Braff has done here is traded fan service for studio oversight and egoism for collaboration. While the film’s backers will undoubtedly be satisfied with the experience, those with no skin in the game will fail to be impressed by this sloppy picture.
My Rating: 4/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark