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Saturday, November 13, 2010

16 WISHES -- DVD review by porfle

When you're considerably older than the target audience, watching a Disney Channel teen comedy can be like swallowing a golf ball.  At worst, you choke on it and die.  At best, even successfully swallowing the damn thing can be a distressing experience.  Fortunately, 16 WISHES (2010) isn't quite the painful ordeal I was dreading when I sat down to watch it.

It sure starts out that way, though--when we see Abby (Debby Ryan, "The Suite Life on Deck") pop out of bed and start freaking out because it's her "Sweet 16th" birthday, we instantly hate her.  Abby is spoiled, selfish, obnoxious, cutesy, and kind of an airhead.  She's rude to her mom and dad and little brother Mike (Cainan Wiebe, who looks so much like a young Barry Williams that I half-expected him to start crooning "Clowns never laughed before" at any moment) when they burst into her room with a birthday cake, and throws them out. 

She also can't figure out why her cute neighbor Krista (Karissa Tynes, JENNIFER'S BODY, DEAR MR. GACY), who shares the same birthday, hates her and has always done her best to one-up her in everything.  But we can sympathize, and we've only known Abby for five minutes. 

Naturally, Abby has a best guy-friend named Jay (Jean-Luc Bilodeau, TRICK 'R TREAT) who has always loved her although she doesn't realize it because she's hung up on the dashing school quarterback.  Jay is the male equivalent of Mary Stuart Masterson's character in SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, along with similar characters in countless other teen comedies.  We know that by the end of the film, Abby will realize how wonderful Jay is, but for now let's pretend that we don't know that.

Also, when a magical fairy godmother named Celeste (the pixie-like Anna Mae Routledge, 2012, "Harper's Island") shows up and gives Abby sixteen candles which will grant her the sixteen fondest wishes she's had since she was eight years old, we know that sooner or later these wishes will backfire on Abby and she'll come to realize that her life is just fine the way it is.  But again, for now we'll act like we don't know this, or that Abby is going to come through her impending ordeal a much better person with a greater appreciation for the good things she already has, which is the sneaky hidden lesson 16 WISHES is just itching to spring on unsuspecting teen viewers.

In the meantime, the fun part about the movie is the vicarious thrill of instant wish-fulfillment such as having the coolest clothes, a new car complete with driver's license, intense school-wide popularity, and all sorts of other great stuff that Abby can rub in Krista's face, including having a totally better Sweet 16 birthday party than her.  But then--wouldn't you know it--Abby makes the fatal mistake of wishing that everyone would stop treating her like a kid.  Whoops!  Next thing you know, her parents move her into her own apartment, she gets thrown out of school, and Jay won't let her near him because he's still 17 and she's suddenly (gasp) 21.  Is he nuts?  When I was 17, having a 21-year-old babe stalking me would've been my biggest freakin' wish.

The rest of the movie is like a teenybopper cross between "The Twilight Zone" and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which actually makes 16 WISHES kind of entertaining despite the fact that it's still a candy-coated bubblegum flick with unappealing cinematography and vertigo-inducing camerawork and editing.  While Abby isn't made to suffer the depths of despair that George Bailey went through, her predicament is still interesting enough to make us care about her character, especially when the whole thing teaches her to become a better person which, as I mentioned before, we pretty much knew was going to happen.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include interviews with the two stars, Debby Ryan and Jean-Luc Bilodeau, which can be a pretty frightening prospect with these Disney Channel movies, but fortunately they're very brief.  There's also a music video with Debby performing the catchy, hook-filled theme song, "A Wish Comes True Everyday", and outtakes during the closing credits.

Once you stop wishing for a really awesome movie and just settle for dumb fun, 16 WISHES isn't all that bad.  As far as swallowing golf balls goes, this one actually went down pretty easy.

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