*Note: This review was first published during the 2014 Sundance Film Festival
Wish I Was Here
Braff's diretorial follow-up to "Garden State" was under scrutiny long
before its premiere in Park City. The "Scrubs" actor drew the ire of
many by asking his would-be audience for help through the fundraising
website Kickstarter, with many feeling that it was inappropriate for an
established star with Hollywood connections and several year's worth of
syndicated sitcom money in the bank to be asking regular folk to turn
out their pockets.
But his fans jumped on board, and now the question is whether "Wish I Was Here" delivers their money's worth.
like Garden State before it, tells the story of a struggling actor
(Braff) at a crossroads in life. In this case, Braff's Aidan Bloom is a
30-something father of two who is in a professional rut. He hasn't
worked since "that dandruff commercial," leaving his wife (Kate Hudson)
to shoulder the bulk of the family's financial burdens.
hit with another blow in the form of his ailing father (Homeland's
Mandy Patinkin) whose cancer has returned and spread throughout his
body. Their relationship is strained, with Patinkin's character
incessantly voicing his disapproval of Aidan's career choice, but more
intact than that of Aidan's brother (Josh Gad) who we presume has barely
spoken to his father in years.
The movie is more mature than much
of Braff's earlier work, with a surprising amount of tenderness between
Aidan and his two children (played by Looper's Pierce Gagnon and White
House Down's Joey King). But there is a disconnect between the
characters and the material that stands in the film's way. Braff and
Hudson have little, if any, chemistry onscreen and Gad has even less
with Ashley Greene in a side-plot awkwardly inserted into the fray.
There's also a significant portion of the film devoted to religion that
never quite materializes into something impactful.
In the end,
Wish I Was Here is a pleasant film with a sufficiently emotional voice.
But the movie likely will not live up to the expectations of Garden
State fans who waited 10 years for Braff to get back behind the camera.
*Wish I Was Here opens in Salt Lake City on Friday, July 25.