Wish I was here is a movie directed by Zach Braff, starring skilled actors like Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Mandy Patinkin, Ashley Greene, Jim Parsons etc. Which I was Here is a story of Aidan Bloom who is a fraught actor, father and husband who at 35, is still trying to find his distinctiveness; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are scarcely getting by fiscally and Aidan passes his time by woolgathering about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.
When his sickly father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan half-heartedly agrees to attempt to home-school them. The result is some funny anarchy, until Aidan decides to brawl the outmoded academic curriculum and come up with his own. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually ascertains some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
Zach Braff starred as Aidan only knows how to make one kind of movie: cutesy, faux sarcastic, desperately emotional and aggressively indie. And so is the case with Wish I Was here. But his slang now seems fossilized, especially in the context of so many superior filmmakers excavating the setup of concerned parenting for real insights. Wish I Was Here has a too-familiar L.A. family in crisis: the glibly failing actor dad (Zach Braff), the long-suffering wife with her own dreams on hold (Kate Hudson), advanced kids who’d benefit from a little personal courtesy.
Plot wise, Wish I was Here is a brazen pileup of banalities. A cancer-stricken father (Mandy Patinkin) requires some belated bonding before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Braff’s daughter is going through a wacky hair phase, and a joyride in an Aston Martin (with salesman in terrified tow) is part of the psychic healing. The script never seeks to get at the heart of Aidan or Noah’s disputes, and no character antagonizes them in any forceful way. Their problems are solved largely by twists of destiny or strong talking-tos. There’s an overall carelessness to Braff’s entire exertion that belies his chosen subject matter, as if nebulously dressing his own creative issues up in more relatable struggles, somehow renders them more universal.
Wish I was Here comes off as an exasperating and frivolous approximation of life without the coziness of disposable income made by someone who seemingly has plenty. Some will find the director’s toothless brand of epiphany comforting, but the vast majority will find it tired.
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