Wish

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY:

Street Date 3/12/24;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $63.92 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray; $34.96 Walmart-Exclusive 4K Steelbook;
Rated ‘PG’ for thematic elements and mild action.
Voices of Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Harvey Guillén, Niko Vargas, Evan Peters, Ramy Youssef, Jon Rudnitsky, Della Saba.

Crafted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s animation studio, Wish pays homage to dozens of the company’s films that preceded it.

It also marks the studio’s first original fairy tale, though the premise is a bit clunky and the story plays like an amalgam of Disney’s previous adaptations.

In the medieval kingdom of Rosas, a spirited 17-year-old girl named Asha (Ariana DeBose) hopes to become apprentice to the island’s ruler, the sorcerer Magnifico (Chris Pine). The king extracts the deepest wish from the city-state’s residents when they turn 18, but only grants a few of them. The rest he keeps protected in floating orbs in his castle while those who made the wish forget what it was unless he someday grants it, under the assumption that their lives are too hard to pursue their ambitions on their own. When Asha upsets the king by suggesting he return the wishes he doesn’t grant, he rejects her as a potential candidate, leading her to wish upon a star for her family’s dreams to be realized.

The power of her wish has such a profound impact on the cosmos that an actual star descends to become her sidekick to help her achieve her goals. However, his arrival casts such a heavenly light upon Rosas that Magnifico panics upon the thought of his subjects realizes he doesn’t control all sources of magic. Turning to dark energies in his quest to find the star, he reveals himself as the true evil threat to the people of Rosas.

Wish should prove to be an adequate piece of entertainment for younger viewers, while longtime Disney fans should have fun analyzing the film for all its hidden references to the earlier works. The film is after all something of an origin story for the very concept of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which just happens to be the Disney theme song. Even the animation style reflects the goal of honoring the past, using CG animation to emulate the hand-painted look of Disney’s most-classic films.

Many of these Easter Eggs are pointed out in the six-and-a-half-minute “Wish D-Classified” featurette on the Blu-ray.

However, what makes the Wish Blu-ray interesting is that the disc as a whole might be more compelling as an artifact of the Disney legacy than it is for the film itself, which will more likely than not to go down as one of the least memorable in the Disney canon.

The true gem of the Blu-ray is the nine-minute short film Once Upon a Studio, which like the film pays tribute to the company’s 100th anniversary by revisiting the past. Taking a bit of a nod from Night at the Museum, the short finds nearly all of Disney’s animated characters coming to life to take a group photo after all the animators go home for the night. The nostalgia hits so rapidly and crosses so many generations that even the most casual Disney fan will be hard-pressed to sit through a viewing completely dry-eyed.

Among the other extras, the most prominent is “100 Years in the Making,” a nine-part documentary about the making of Wish that runs a bit more than an hour and consists mostly of the filmmakers in group conversations talking about how motivated they were to make the film feel like the culmination of 100 years of Disney animation.

Also included are nearly three minutes of voiceover outtakes, and a number of deleted sequences. One is the deleted song “A Wish Worth Making” with some rough animation in a three-minute sequence. Then there are five deleted scenes in storyboard form from earlier iterations of the film that run about 22 minutes in total.

The Blu-ray also offers a sing-along mode for viewing the movie with on-screen lyrics during the musical sequences; there’s a song selection option for those who just want to skip to the sing-along parts.

The Walmart-exclusive Steelbook edition includes the film on both 4K and regular Blu-ray Discs. All of the extras are included on the Blu-ray, while the 4K presentation is just the movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Family;
Box Office $190.87 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $35.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for action, some violence, rude humor, and mild language.
Stars Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Lee Majdoub, Tom Butler, Melody Nosipho Niemann. Voices of Ben Schwartz, Idris Elba, Colleen O’Shaughnessey.

The first Sonic the Hedgehog movie in 2020 was a relatively low-key affair in terms of adapting the Sega video game. Elements from the games were kept to a minimum, as the film focused mainly on establishing the speedy Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) on Earth by pairing him with a sheriff named Tom (James Marsden), who helped Sonic evade Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).

After the success of that first film, for the sequel the filmmakers have opened up the world a bit, introducing more elements from the game, new characters and a lot of high-speed action. It’s a fun ride, especially for fans of the games and the first film, but it runs a bit long as the filmmakers can’t help but indulge in bringing their favorite moments from the game to life.

Robotnik, last seen at the end of the first film trapped on a mushroom planet, is found by the echidna warrior Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), who brings him back to Earth in order to track down Sonic. Knuckles believes Sonic is the key to locating a powerful artifact called the Master Emerald, while Robitnik just wants revenge, so they form an alliance. Meanwhile, Tails the flying fox arrives on Earth hoping to help Sonic against Knuckles.

Now that the big three characters from the game are in play, plus Robotnik sporting a look closer to his game appearance with a crazy moustache, the plot doesn’t need to rely on the human side characters as much, and finds an excuse to keep Sonic separated from Tom for most of the movie.

Sonic discovers the map given to him in the first film when he was sent to Earth contains clues to the location of the Master Emerald, setting off an Indiana Jones-type adventure quest as Sonic and Tails hope to find the jewel before Knuckles and Robotnik.

Tom, meanwhile, ventures to Hawaii for his sister-in-law’s wedding, in a storyline that eventually comes back around to tie into the main plot for a spectacular final boss level battle, but it’s a bit of a chore to get through as it feels like a conventional slapstick comedy tacked onto a video game fantasy movie.

Topping things off are some nice messages about teamwork and family.

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The film looks great in 4K and the game characters are rendered well, even if they look like cartoon characters dropped into a live-action world. Carrey’s over-the-top performance is probably the key to tying it all together as he’s basically a living cartoon character anyway.

Knuckles will likely be seen as the breakthrough character here, as Elba does some terrific voice work, and Paramount+ is developing a miniseries about the character for release in 2023. The film also lays some groundwork for a third film, which has been announced for 2024 since the second film did better than the first one at the box office.

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The Blu-ray includes a five-minute short film called “Sonic Drone Home” that is something of a follow-up to the movie, but is fully CG-animated.

Another highlight is the commentary from Schwartz and director Jeff Fowler, which continues the fun conversation the pair were having in the commentary from the first movie, as they discuss how the movie was made and point out more references to the games.

More behind-the-scenes details are revealed in five featurettes that run a total of about 20 minutes.

Also included are 17 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, three minutes of bloopers, a humorous Q&A with Schwartz, and a Kid Cudi music video for the song “Stars in the Sky.”

The Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Blu-rays are not offered as combo packs, and are configured as either a standalone 4K disc or a standalone regular Blu-ray. Each has all the bonus material plus a code for a digital copy.