16 Wishes
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16 Wishes



I realize that many adults have a propensity to eschew television and movies targeted to the teen and tween demographic. It is understandable especially if you reside in a household without representation of these age groups. I admit that not only am I long past that youthful portion of the population but my daughter has also moved on from it. Still, a person who reviews film and television programming I do come across such fair on a fairly regular basis. One reason I continually accept such contentment is simple; very often it is better than a lot of the material geared to the mature audiences. It is just refreshing to sit back and watch a film for the pure escapism it can provide; devoid of weighty social commentary, vitally important current issues and deep philosophic meaning. If done correctly a movie like this can offer an enjoyable respite from the cares and responsibility of the workaday world. One of my best friends works in neonatology using her advanced education and training to deal on a daily basis with life or death issues. She prefers a lot of flicks that is relegated to a younger audience and she helped me to appreciate the rejuvenating influence these films can have. Fortunately the Walt Disney Studios have been a source of entertainment suitable for a broad spectrum of ages for almost eighty years now. One of the latest flicks co-produced by Disney and a Canadian family cable network is ’16 Wishes’. The central premise here is one that the Disney organization is extremely well versed in handling; a world where magic actively exists. While it is true that most such entertainment is inherently silly it has to be kept in mind that you cannot approach it with the same criteria as you would with a film intended for grown-ups. Sure there are some cinematic fundamentals that must be achieved but in cases like this flick is to entertain; primarily the pre-teen set but also something that will not send the parents fleeing from the room or unconscious in a diabetic coma. Say what you will but the bottom line is ’16 Wishes’ achieves this goal readily.

For many young girls the day they await with greatest anticipation is their Sweet. For Latinas in certain Hispanic cultures this phenomenon occurs one year earlier with their Quinceanera. No matter which year it happens it is an incredibly important event for the girl; one of the last vestiges of the cultural celebration of embarking on their progression to being an adult. For Abby Jensen (Debby Ryan) she has been planning this day since she was eight, half her life. During that time she compiled a list of wishes that when they came true would ensure her the perfect birthday. While she prepares for this highly anticipated magical day some strange events are starting behind the scenes. Little does Abby realize but she has a fairy godmother Celeste (Anna Mae Routledge) who is charged with making Abby’s sixteen birthday wishes come true. First Celeste sets loose a horde of wasps driving the Jensen family out of their home. Celeste appears as the exterminator who explains the infestation has been building for 16 years. Abby has to take the bus where she meets her best friend Jay Kepler (Jean-Luc Bilodeau). He gives her a necklace with half a heart and BFF on it; the matching half is on his keychain. At one point he almost takes her hand making it obvious to the audience that he wants to be more than Abby’s best friend. The story doesn’t waste a lot of time with more than a cursory introduction to Abby’s arch nemesis Krista Cook (Karissa Tynes). She was born on the same day as Abby and has been making her life miserable for eight years. Celeste shows up in a mail truck to give Abby her present; a set of birthday candles numbered from one to sixteen and a box of matches. As Abby soon discovers each candle corresponds to a wish on the list and lighting it makes that wish come true, instantly. Later while in school Celeste informs Abby about the two rules; one wish per hour on the clock and at midnight all the wishes become permanent. Of course thing quickly get out of hand when a wish to be treated like an adult isolates Abby from every one threatening to ruin not only her special day but her life.

The script was provided by a veteran of Tween flicks, Karissa Tynes. She has penned several of the better crafted Disney movies including ‘Starstruck’,’ Princess Protection Program’ and ‘Return to Halloween town’. The reining aspect of her work is her ability is infusing a strong didactic thread into what is at least superficially light hearted fun. In this case the lesson at hand is twofold. First of all don’t be so anxious to grow up; enjoy the age you are at. Abby wants to be treated like a grown up and discovers that being sixteen is where she needs to be for now. The second lesson is instant gratification sounds great in theory but working towards a goal imbibes it with far greater value. Abby has been diligently saving for her birthday which turns out to be much better than magically getting it. One of the dominate threads in any story of this type is the romantic angle. Abby has been crushing over the quarterback for a long time which myopically blinded her to a boy who truly loves her for herself, Jay. Many guys can empathize with his dilemma feeling something for a girl who only can see you as a friend. Jay has to sit supportively by as Abby drone on and on about some superficial guy she likes. The film is quickly paced by actor turning director Peter DeLuise. He has been working nearly constantly in front of the camera in a series of teen oriented series. Acting and directing is the family business with his father Don and brother Michael both well known in the field. This DeLuise is still working the other side of the camera as the bewildered father on the Disney hit show ‘Wizards of Waverley Place’. He does have an excellent eye for a project like these keeping things lively for all family members.

Posted 11/29/2010

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