Title: Wish I Was HereDirector: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Kate Hudson, Joey King, Mandy Patinkin
Plot: Aidan (Braff) is a struggling actor living in LA while being supported by his wife Sarah (Hudson) and relying on his father Gabe (Patinkin) to send his kids to a good school. However Aiden finds himself forced to examine his life when his father’s cancer returns.
Review: Coming ten years after his critically acclaimed indie hit “Garden State” this follow up is probably better known for the controversy Braff caused by trying to use Kickstarter to fund part of the film after being inspired by the success of the “Veronica Mars” campaign to try the same for this film. It’s still unclear why everyone was so upset by this move, perhaps believing that Braff should be able to fund his own movie but yet these same people have little concern about raising funds to bring back MST3K which had a decent run to begin with.
Once again here Braff plays an actor (way to branch out) though here it’s clear that things aren’t exactly going according to plan as he goes from one failed audition to the next all while his wife Sarah is forced to work a tedious job in data entry to pay the bills while also being forced to share a cubicle with her douchbag co-worker who constantly makes inappropriate jokes about his penis. Despite the comfortable setup Aiden has for himself there is a sense of him feeling lost and without purpose, especially with his acting career having seemingly stalled and is only thrown into further confusion when his father stops funding the expensive Jewish school his kids had been attending and leading Aiden first of all on a misguided attempt to home school before ultimately re-examine what he wants to do with his life.
Despite clearly aiming for the same element of indie cool that his debut had it’s ultimately a missed bag of ideas that we ultimately end up with here as he drags his kids Grace (King) and Tucker (Gagnon) along with him on his journey of self-discovery, while his daughter deals with life outside of the tight restraints of her Jewish school, a situation she chooses to deal with by shaving her head and in doing so spends the rest of the film wearing a bright pink wig. Tucker meanwhile…..well not a lot changes for him as seemingly its enough for him to just be the bratty younger brother.
Elsewhere Aidan has to also help reunite his brother Noah (Gad) and father the two having drifted apart under Gabe’s continual criticism of his son, which has seemingly now turned Noah into a slovenly shut in. Sadly Gad is sorely under used here, especially when he so much fun when he is on the screen making demands for a Lego Death Star to babysit the kids or getting in an argument with his neighbour (Greene) over whether she should be classed as a furry while at the same harbouring feelings for her he’s seemingly only able to show via showing up in his own costume at Comic-con leading to one of the more original sex scenes ever.
While the key theme of the film is clearly about the discover of self, here Braff also appears to be asking the question of when if ever is it okay to let your dreams die, in this case Aiden’s refusal to give up on his acting career. With Aiden though so self-focused on his own journey it does at time feel that we are watching Braff play the cool babysitter running around with someone else’s kids rather than his own. At the same time Aiden frequently drifts off into “Brazil” inspired daydreams where he is running around as what appear to be a medieval astronaut, which Braff attempts to nail some importance on, but largely these come off more as whims and left off plot devices which could have gone somewhere but ultimately never do, something all the more frustrating when such importance seems to be placed upon them.
Despite the plotting issues which run throughout the film it is another great cast which Braff has assembled here with Joey King once again proving herself a charming young actress and certainly a talent to watch. The downside though is that despite having a great cast, the script never gives many of them anything particularly interesting to do especially as in the case of Hudson who spends most of the film outside of her harassment plot line pushed to the back of the film and there mainly to provide the moral support and be the rock of her relationship with Aiden. Mandy Patinkin meanwhile is on hand to provide food for thought, but gives a very sedate performance even outside of his character dying from cancer, it feels like he was autopilot for the most part here.
Outside of the issue the film is enjoyable enough, though lacking in the same spark which made “Garden State” such a memorable indie classic while at the same time leaving little to discover on a rewatch, especially when things generally happen around the characters as they move towards the inevitable conclusion of the film which you will no doubt see coming early on. Still as the kind of movie that you throw on a lazy Sunday you could do a lot worse while making me curious to see what Braff does next and whether “Garden State” was the fluke many now seem contempt to proclaim it as being.