Wish I Was Here (2015)

Director : Zac Braff

Written by : Zac Braff & Adam J Braff

The Zac Braff directed episodes of Scrubs trod the line between comedy, tragedy and fantasy particularly well. When tasked with killing the Mother from The Waltons, he spliced it with a Wizrd of Oz motif and made her death feel hopeful for those left behind. In Wish I was Here, the killing of another cultural icon, this time Mandy Patinkin, was not as successful and took much longer, hanging over the film like the terminal illness that it was.

The preview for this movie was great. A video clip packed full of cool images; Kids in wigs and sunglasses, sci-fi costumes and Californian coastline. But that isn't what the film turned out to be. Despite looking great and sounding great, with another masterful Braffian soundtrack, the overall balance seemed off. Everything  just a bit too much like a movie. His brother  (Josh Gad) was a bit too quirky, the scenes with the kids seemed written by someone childless and Kate Hudson's office scenes were like no workplace in existence since the early eighties.

There was never a moment when I wasn't conscious of watching Braff, Patinkin, Hudson etc. acting. It didn't help when Turk (Donald Faison) popped in for a few minutes. As great as it was to see the old Turkelton again, it does nothing to help trick you into thinking that this was a real movie. And maybe that's the problem. I didn't care that crowdfunding was used to fund the movie,  but I was aware of it, and by the end I couldn't help thinking that maybe the end result would have benefitted from some third party guidance.

But Wish I was Here does have merit. There were laugh out loud moments and genuine poignancy that gives a hint of what we might see from Braff in the future. You wonder if his Woody Allen connection ( he played his son in Manhattan Murder Mystery) is casting too big a shadow for him at this stage of his career and he might be better served in the future by dropping one or two of slashes from his writer/director/star triple threat.

Not required viewing