So… this is pretty much what happened. Back in 2004, Zach Braff made his directorial debut Garden State, which garnered positive reviews and a cult following. Thanks to that following, he was set up a Kickstarter campaign, which enabled the fans to fund this feature,, Wish I Was Here, which is essentially a quasi-remake of his former flick. Both movies star Braff as a struggling actor/manchild dealing with daddy issues while working through a series of life adventures. Oh the soundtrack to both films is quite nifty and both features a Jim Parsons cameo. I think that pretty much sums it up. That being said, Wish I Was Here is not a bad movie. The strong acting performances and the story with a big heart does have its appeal, though it certainly lacks cult appeal like his directorial debut Garden State.
In Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff stars as Aiden Bloom, a family man/struggling actor who is still waiting for his big break in Hollywood. He has an overly supportive wife Sarah (Kate Hudson), who holds a mundane unrewarding data entry job so that her husband can chase his acting dreams at casting audtions. Meanwhile, his father Saul (Mandy Patinkin) also helps out his family by funding the Bloom children, Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) to attend a private Jewish school. Unfortunately with Saul’s deteriorating health and increasing medical costs, he is not able to fund for Grace and Tucker’s schooling anymore. This forces Aiden to face the harsh fact that he is a man in his mid-thirties who is pursuing a dream that will not likely pan out while neglecting his own family at the same time. Unsure of what to do and in possibly a quasi-mid-life crisis, Aiden tries to home school his children (to hilarious result), mend a broken relationship between his father and his brother Noah (Josh Gad), refurbish his own home and contemplate on a possible career change.
There is no doubt that the primary storylines in Wish I Was Here has been explored multiple times before. Like Garden State, it deals with the whole issue of arrested development, family issues and dealing with terminal illness once again. At times it feels like a copy and paste job from ten years ago. On the plus side, there are redeeming elements to the movie. Zach Braff does have a good eye behind the camera and the shots are beautifully done. He also has a knack for good music and the “mixtape” element of his films often find a place in many people’s hearts.
The strong performances in the film certainly help carry this movie. Joey King and Pierce Gagnon are quite charming in their roles and they are perfect foils to Braff’s character. Kate Hudson is back in a role worthy of her talent after spending a good portion of her career being typecast in romantic comedies. She brings so much poise into a role as a woman with great sensitivity and resolve.
Even though Wish I Was Here doesn’t really bring anything fresh to the table, the movie is quite relatable. There’s still plenty of laughter to be found in the film and it does tug on the right heartstrings at the right moments.
The final product might be somewhat of a disappointment, but it certainly had its heart in the right place. It is hard to fault on that; hence the Wish I Was Here still ends up being rather enjoyable but not as memorable as its predecessor.