Wish Upon

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - DAN LYBARGER

The most in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter in Wish Upon isn’t one of the peo­ple who winds up dy­ing in a pre­dictable man­ner. It’s the Chi­nese-made box that grants its owner seven wishes while tak­ing oth­ers’ lives in the process. It even opens up and plays mu­sic as the un­for­tu­nate meets his or her grisly end.

Un­for­tu­nately, screen­writer Bar­bara Mar­shall (whose re­sume in­cludes Terra Nova and Vi­ral) can’t come up with a sce­nario that of­fers any­thing more in­trigu­ing than The Craft. Worse, she can’t con­ceive of any demises more shock­ing than your typ­i­cal Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion movie.

While Claire Shan­non (Joey King) holds the box to make an­other wish, the au­di­ence feels as if they are hold­ing crys­tal balls and know ex­actly what will hap­pen to the res­i­dents of Toronto (un­con­vinc­ingly pass­ing as a generic Amer­i­can city).

In most movies, Claire would be a sym­pa­thetic pro­tag­o­nist, but here it’s tempt­ing to cheer on the mean girls

tor­ment­ing her. Even when it’s ob­vi­ous the box is mur­der­ous, she keeps mak­ing wishes. (Bul­ly­ing on so­cial me­dia is bad, kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to kill one’s tor­men­tors.)

But Claire’s in a dif­fi­cult place: Her mother kills her­self at the be­gin­ning of the movie, and her fa­ther (Ryan Phillippe) and his buddy Carl (Kevin Han­chard) ap­pear to make their liv­ing as pro­fes­sional dump­ster divers, an op­tion per­haps more dig­ni­fied than ap­pear­ing in this film.

Dad dis­cov­ers the shiny red box, and be­cause her school of­fers Man­darin, Claire knows just enough Chi­nese to un­der­stand the box prom­ises to grant wishes — though not enough to guess the price of ful­fill­ment.

Since it of­fers Man­darin, you might think Claire at­tends a great school, but her class­mates and in­struc­tors con­stantly do dumb things, plac­ing them­selves high in trees and their limbs into garbage dis­pos­als. Who needs an evil box in a com­mu­nity over­flow­ing with po­ten­tial Dar­win Award win­ners?

Noth­ing in Wish Upon is as exquisitely crafted as the box. With a re­ported $12 mil­lion bud­get, ev­ery ex­pense has been spared. One char­ac­ter meets her doom chas­ing after the cheesi­est knock off of Poke­mon Go imag­in­able, and the phone and com­puter screens might as well carry the head­ing “Generic So­cial Net­work Be­cause We Can’t Pay Face­book or Twit­ter.”

John R. Leonetti has spent most of his ca­reer as a cin­e­matog­ra­pher and should have been banned from the di­rec­tor’s chair after his in­aus­pi­cious de­but with Mor­tal Kom­bat: An­ni­hi­la­tion. Two decades have not im­proved his sto­ry­telling chops. There are lots of jump scares and weak at­tempts to coax ter­ror from PG-13 vi­o­lence.

If there was an Os­car awarded to a movie for the most eye rolling or un­in­ten­tional de­ri­sive laugh­ter, Wish Upon would be a wor­thy nom­i­nee.

Clare Shan­non (Joey King) is given a strange Chi­nese mu­sic box by her fa­ther in the hor­ror movie Wish Upon.

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