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Sundance '14 Review: Zach Braff's WISH I WAS HERE

Director: Zach Braff

Screenwriters: Zach Braff, Adam Braff

Cast: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon

Story and Direction

In Zach Braff's follow up to 2004's Garden State, he has more to riff on about struggling actors and strained father/son relationships. Wish I Wish Was Here stars Braff as an out-of-work actor who takes on the responsibility of homeschooling his son and daughter when his ailing father can no longer pay their tuition.

If you bring in Garden State as a measuring stick for this film, you're gonna leave disappointed. It simply lacks the flare and atmosphere that made Braff's directorial debut so engaging. He does provide yet another great soundtrack, but the music isn’t nearly as integral to film as it was in his previous effort. I’ll admit, there are genuinely funny and touching moments. However, the movie falls into a tedious pattern very quickly -- a loop of out of place sci-fi dream sequences, pandering geek references, and characters imparting impossibly eloquent wisdom to each other… throw in a cameo and repeat.

Performances

While it takes a while for the story to find its footing, the cast is instantly likable. Braff enlisted a couple of the strongest child actors to play his daughter and son -- his Oz The Great and Powerful co-star Joey King and Looper's Pierce Gagnon. Along with Braff himself, King and Gagnon provide much of the laughs. King also carries a couple of the heavier scenes. As Braff's genius/failure of a brother, Josh Gad is wonderful, but the romantic plot line between him and Ashley Greene is a bit unbearable. Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin round out the cast and give solid performances as Braff's breadwinner wife and his crotchety father, respectively.

Similar To

Again, even if Braff’s character sounds very similar on paper, this is NOT Garden State 2 (although if it were, I'm guessing the Los Angeles set comedy would be called Golden State?). This looks and feels like a more traditional comedy for the most part with some of Braff’s more familiar touches creeping in toward the end of the film.

Chances You’ll See It In Theaters

Wish I Was Here has been picked up by Focus Features. Expect it in a theater near you.


Official Synopsis:

Following his celebrated debut feature, Garden State, Zach Braff delivers a new postcard from the edge of existential crisis, this time playing a thirtysomething family man wrestling with a few minor hindrances—like his disapproving father, an elusive God, and yes, adult responsibility. Aidan Bloom is a pot-smoking actor whose last job, a dandruff commercial, was longer ago than he cares to admit. Pursuing his thespian dream has landed him and his wife in tough financial straits, so when his grumpy father can no longer pay for the kids to attend Jewish Yeshiva, Aidan opts for homeschooling. To the chagrin of his hyperdisciplined, religious daughter and the delight of his less-than-studious son, Aidan takes matters into his own imaginative hands, rather than sticking to the boring old traditional curriculum.

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