'Wish I Was Here': What the Critics Are Saying

6:00 AM PST 07/18/2014 by Ian Servantes

Zach Braff's comedy-drama, produced after raising $3 million on Kickstarter, also stars Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Mandy Patinkin and Ashley Greene.

Zach Braff's comedy-drama Wish I Was Here, produced after raising $3 million on Kickstarter before being picked up by Focus Features for $2.75 million, kicks off its limited release this Friday. The film, also starring Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Mandy Patinkin and Ashley Greene, opens in 68 theaters in North America and will expand into additional theaters and markets on the weekend of July 25 and beyond.

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Read what the critics are saying about Wish I Was Here:

The Hollywood Reporter's Boyd van Hoeij says in his Sundance review, "This funny and emotionally satisfying tale of thirtysomethings trying to come to terms with life itself could become a crossover hit, much like Garden State, especially if marketing folks manage to turn the film's 46,520 Kickstarter backers into online apostles. ... Braff essentially plays Aidan like a grown-up Large, from Garden State, which is fine, and he's again surrounded himself with a wonderful cast of actors. Hudson, though in a supporting role, might be doing her best work since Almost Famous. Her subplot involving harassment at work is played just right and her hospital scene with Patinkin is a true heartbreaker that showcases the capacity of both actors to suggest wells of unspoken emotion and years of pain and frustration as well as love." 

The New York Times' Stephen Holden leads a pack of critics who tore apart Braff's film and calls it "deluxe fast food disguised as haute cuisine. ...Wish I Was Here is so eager to please that you are never allowed to feel uncomfortable for more than a minute or two before a reassuringly stale joke rushes in to pat you on the head. ... Patinkin's performance helps make Wish I Was Here, with all its weaknesses, a far more persuasive and heartfelt portrait of death and dying than the recent Lullaby, which drowned in its own tears. But that's not saying much." 

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Los Angeles Times' Mark Olsen says the film "feels self-satisfied rather than sincere, defensive rather than open. For a film that purports to be about the process of maturity and growth, it is woefully un-evolved, lacking in understanding and insight. With its greeting car aphorisms and muddled style, Braff's latest feels like a step back rather than some new destination. There is simply no there to Wish I Was Here. ... The story is wildly disjointed, cramming together thematic notions about parenting, family, male maturity and Jewish identity — any of which would have made for a better movie if more deeply explored. Yet Wish I Was Here doesn't feel overstuffed as if bursting with ideas, rather it fells entirely underdeveloped, limp and lacking a solid core."

Boston Globe's Ty Burr writes, "The real problem is that the hero is a self-absorbed child who, when his wife expresses dissatisfaction with her hellish job, whines 'I thought you supported my dream.' The entire male side of AIdan's family makes a terrible impression, actually, from that judgmental father to brother Noah, a misanthropic creep who lives in a trailer and who we're apparently meant to find adorable. ... A better film (and a better filmmaker) wold urge us to empathize with these flawed individuals and recognize their common humanity. Instead, Wish I Was Here repels through a combination of flippant dialogue, awkward emotional manipulation, heavy-handed symbolism (including that all-purpose SoCal metaphor, the swimming pool), and Braff's belief that he's saying anything new or profound here." 

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips argues none of the Kickstarter controversy would "amount to anything if the film itself were better. ... The movie is everything but funny or interesting. The actors, particularly Patinkin and Gad, bring their own funny-and-interesting to the project, but the way Braff lards the pathos with squishy folk-rock undermines his own attempts at honest communication."

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