Actually, the reason I was primarily interested in this film was not because I am a Zach Braff fan but rather because this movie was partially funded through crowdfunding via KickStarter. I was interested to see how a crowdfunded movie would fare, both in whether it would be able to feel unique and indie, and whether it would be able to appeal to a wide audience (in contrast to the crowdfunded Veronica Mars film). The verdict is no the former and yes to the latter, although whether these are good things will have to be left up to the film-going crowd to decide.
To start, we shall address the first half of the dramedy fusion genre, the comedy. Frankly, the comedy of this film generally fell flat most of the time. Although they are a few genuinely funny, laugh out loud moments (such as one involving Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton…), most of the jokes are simply not that funny. It often feels like the writers were trying too hard to get the audience to laugh, but more often than not we don’t.
The other half, fortunately, is better. Braff seems to be better at writing drama than comedy, because while the jokes generally failed to make me laugh, the movie did make me care about the characters. Aidan, despite his flaws, is a well-meaning guy who just wants to follow his dreams and be a good husband and father. Jonah has to come to terms with his strained relationship with his father. And even though it’s a relatively common plot, the story of both of them having to deal with their father’s impending death does pull on some heartstrings. Although it can occasionally lapse into the cliché, Wish I Was Here does save itself by having drama that, while not unique, does manage to be heartwarming.
Like I mentioned earlier, despite the fact that the movie was partially funded via KickStarter, it does not feel very unique. Rather, it just feels pretty much like every other comedy-drama movie that Hollywood makes every year. This disappointed me more than the lackluster humor in the film, because I was really hoping that crowdfunding would give Zach Braff the opportunity to make something really unique. It feels a bit like a wasted chance.
Overall, while not being great or particularly different than standard Hollywood fare, Wish I Was Here does show that Zach Braff can write a modestly entertaining drama film, if not comedy. If you’re in the mood for a bittersweet movie about the importance of family, then I recommend seeing it. If not, this is one that can wait until a DVD release.