Now that box office results suggest we're tired of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, get ready for the Disney Cinematic Universe.
It becomes clear during the animated musical "Wish" that, although it's a new story, it's also an attempt to collect elements of more than a dozen classic Disney movies in one place: wishing on stars, evil monarchs, adorable woodland creatures that talk, mystical books, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" and even a deer named Bambi. The effect, which marks the company's 100th anniversary, is a cinematic version of one of those DJ Earworm songs that mash up a year's worth of bangers into one song.
Ariana DeBose supplies the voice of Asha, a teenager in a land ruled by King Magnifico (Chris Pine), who is known for his ability to grant wishes. Early in the film, Asha realizes the king actually uses that power to keep people docile and that, in fact, he maintains power by stealing his subjects' wishes. So she and a plucky band of friends resolve to reveal his evil plans and give people back their wishes.
As callbacks to previous Disney movies such as "Snow White" and "Pinocchio" pile up, "Wish" sometimes feels more like fan service than an original movie. In that same vein, the adorable, non-verbal creature known as Star could not be a more obvious attempt to generate a Minions-like merch cash cow from "Wish." It's even yellow.
What distinguishes the movie is its look, which combines elements of painterly Disney classics with the computer-generated visual style of more recent hits such as "Frozen," and its sound. The songs, mostly sung by lively "West Side Story" Oscar winner DeBose, have energy and style (a couple are in the talk/sing vein of "Satisfied" from "Hamilton"). A crummy tune can stop an animated movie dead but the "Wish" numbers give the movie a huge lift while also carrying forward the narrative momentum.
You can probably guess how things turn out in "Wish"; one thing about assembling a new movie from parts of old ones is that it's going to have a hard time surprising us. But that worked — for me, at least — because nostalgia is the point of the movie.
It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens in the future of this possible DCU. Will we get a movie with Tinkerbell, Asha and Jiminy Cricket joining forces to grant wishes to lucky strangers? Will Hercules, Tramp, Peter Pan and the Beast form a boy band? I am intrigued enough to find out.
**½ out of 4 stars
Rated: PG for mild scares.
Where: In theaters.