Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Ki Hong Lee, Mitchell Slaggert, Shannon Purser, Sydney Park, Elisabeth Rohm, Josephine Langford, Alexander Nunez, Daniela Barbosa, Kevin Hanchard, Sherilyn Fenn, Raegan Revord, Alice Lee, Victor Sutton, Albert Chung
Written by: Barbara Marshall
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language
Running Time: 90
Date: 07/14/2017

Wish Upon (2017)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Taken for Granted

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This modern-day, high school take on W. W. Jacobs's classic horror story The Monkey's Paw is a not-scary dud that suffers from both uninspired death scenes and extremely shallow, annoying characters.

In Wish Upon, miserable high-schooler Clare Shannon (Joey King) lives with her junk-scavenging father (Ryan Phillippe) and suffers from nightmares about her mother's suicide. One day her father presents her with a weird box. She makes a wish that the pretty blonde school bully will "rot," and it comes true. Curious, she wishes that the school hunk will fall in love with her, and it happens.

Soon she and her father move into a mansion and their money troubles are over. But, all around her people — and her beloved dog Max — start dying. With the help of childhood friend Ryan (Ki Hong Lee), she begins to translate the Chinese symbols on the box, and discovers that there are high prices to pay for her wishes. But can she stop?

"What's wrong with you?" characters keep asking the main character, Claire, and viewers are likely to be asking the same question. Screenwriter Barbara Marshall (TV's Terra Nova) and director John R. Leonetti (Annabelle) fail to paint her as a truly desperate character; she's cute, she has two best friends, a home, a loving father, etc. Her life isn't terrible enough to risk everything on deadly wishes, and it's hard to get behind her.

Frankly, it's easy to despise her, especially when she goes on a materialistic shopping spree while family, friends, and neighbors are dying all around her. The deaths could have been clever, Final Destination-type mechanisms, full of menacing surprise, but instead they're dumb exercises in waiting for the inevitable.

Wish Upon ventures tentatively halfway between asking us to care for its characters and halfway to enjoying the scary stuff, and it gets nowhere.

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