- Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 35 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…
This new Disney musical fairytale pays reference to traditional classics of the studio but rejects their paternalism by focusing upon a young woman who is not waiting for a prince to come to her rescue. Asha (Ariana DeBose) is worthy of joining the ranks of such modern Disney heroines as Moana, Mirabel, Merida, Mulan, and numerous others who, with Jasmine (from Aladin) declare, “l am not a prize to be won!”
She lives with her elderly grandpa Sabino’s (Victor Garber) on the island kingdom of Rosas, in the Mediterranean Sea, where she works as a tour guide for the visitors arriving to determine if they want to stay. King Magnifico (Chris Pine), a sorcerer, rules the island with Queen Amaya (Angelique Cabral). He founded the kingdom as a sanctuary for those with wishes hard or impossible to achieve. When at the age of 18 they offer them to him, he places them in large bubbles and every so often grants one, but keeps most. When his subjects give up their dreams, they forget them and go on to live their lives.
Asha is eager to try out for the open position of apprentice to King Magnifico. She is hoping that the King will grant her grandfather’s wish that night. The initial interview goes well, she being the first outsider whom he brings into his inner chamber where the wishes float in large bubbles, but when he explains how he operates, keeping the dreams and granting very few, she questions the practice. She suggests that pople should be able to work out their own dreams. Why is he the only one to decide what is best for the kingdom? Angry, he roars, “I decide what everyone deserves!” He thrusts her out. No position for her! As the story progresses, we will see what an evil person he is, in one scene seemingly enjoying crushing one dream after another.
That night under the stars Asha pours out her broken heart in the song “This Wish.” At first, I thought this similar to the lovely song that expresses Pinnocchio’s wish, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” but this is no soft tune, but a pounding anthem expressing a strong-willed young woman’s refusal to accept an unjust status quo. It begins with a reference to John’s gospel— “If the truth is to set you free””—
polly lookingthe universe—Disney always generalizes any idea of God—answer her by sending Star, a rolly-polly-looking celestial creature whose dust contains magic. Asha’s raucus companion, a goat named Valentino (Alan Tudyk), suddenly discovers he can talk. (He is surprised that his voice is so low.) Like so many fairytales, this is a quest story, our beautiful heroine accompanied by Valentine and helped by her village friends. Her battle against Magnifico is strenuous, with with Queen Amaya playing an important part in the outcome.
Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, the film makes many references to past Disney films. As mentioned above, Asha belongs to the latter period of Disney’s 100-year-long depiction of heroines. She is distinctive in that she is bi-racial, and definitely not sleeping or sitting around waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her. The original songs by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice are very appropriate, moving the action along and expressing well a character’s feelings. Asha’s “This Wish” is very expressive of the heroine’s strength and determination. “Welcome to Rosas” is spritely, and song “This Is the Thanks I Get?” is so appropriate for the villainous King.
King Magnifico is what Jesus might have become had he accepted Satan’s offer to him of “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” He is a sad example of a good man corrupted by power, a medieval version of Willy in All the King’s Men. His shout to Asha of “I decide what everyone deserves!” proves he knows nothing of the love that the apostle Paul describes to his readers in Corinth. This film might not be up to the level of the A+ Disney films, but it is still a worthy visual parable, offering both entertainment and insights for young and old.
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