Wish I Was Here an underwhelming effort

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Starring Zach Braff and Kate Hudson. Rated PG.

Zach Braff’s crowdfunded follow-up to Garden State carries his central character from life as a struggling actor in his 20s to being a struggling actor in his 30s, now with family, crumbling house in the suburbs, and even graver career doubts.

In this long-gestating, vaguely titled effort, cowritten via email with brother Adam Braff, the affable Scrubs star and sophomore feature director plays Aidan Bloom, an L.A. bit player overly dependent on his long-suffering wife (Kate Hudson) and her dull job with the water department. Currently, he’s coming to grips with the decline of his formerly leonine father (Mandy Patinkin), whose cancer treatments divert financial support that keeps the Bloomettes in private Hebrew school. That’s fine with the little boy (Pierce Gagnon) but his older sister (Joey King) actually loves how her Orthodox yeshiva sticks her in the balcony with the other future wig-wearers. Kids today!

No help’s coming from the actor’s messed-up brother (Josh Gad, in another of Jack Black’s cast-off roles), a “genius” with “mental problems”, or something, who lives in a scruffy trailer with a Malibu view. He also has a hot neighbour (Ashley Greene) who shares his passion for sci-fi cosplay. Because it’s that kind of movie.

Anyway, our out-of-work thesp must home-school the kiddies until the Blooms sort things out. Ulysses it ain’t. This means many montage sequences, set to soft indie rock, of family fightin’ and bondin’ and lots of money in the “Swear Jar”, leading to a desert trip in which Dad explains how he gets his breakthroughs in life: “An epiphany is when you realize something you really needed to realize.” Really? How about realizing a couple more emails, fellas?

Actually, there’s no lack of labour evident, but the effort is so scattershot—running from raunchy to sentimental, with pointless and oddly repetitive CGI fantasy stuff in between—it’s like 12 mediocre movies in one. Most scenes last too long, while several underbaked subplots could have been cut. And what does it say about a movie when Kate Hudson is the best thing in it?

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Raymond Tomlin
Surely, The Straight editor assigning a writer to review this film must have realized that it's a movie John Lekich could better appreciate, and recognize that Ken Eisner would provide only the most cynical of takes on Zach Braff's Kickstarter-funded tale of a wayward family at the crossroads.

While it's true that Wish I Was Here could hardly be considered 'great cinema', there's plenty of heart in Braff's fitfully told and realized film -- enough so, one might suppose, to make the film at least (barely) recommendable to its intended audience.
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Rating: -3
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