Image Entertainment // 2010 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // December 2nd, 2010
Everyone's sweet 16 is special, Abby's is magical.
Disney Channel made-for-television movies represent a special kind of imaginary idealism, like a modern-day Jonathan Swift satire. They are a happy idealistic Republican fantasy world of fresh-faced, innocent pre-teens blissfully self-absorbed in their own narcissism, like ants in a jar.
16 Wishes is the personification of pure fantasy; a make-believe world that never existed, full of family-friendly morality lessons. In actuality, most sixteen-year-old girls are taking naked pictures of themselves with their cellphones and dating boys with a meth lab in their basement. Just don't tell the Disney Channel that.
Abby (Debby Ryan, The Suite Life On Deck) has been looking forward to turning sweet sixteen since she was a little girl. She even has a list of accomplishments she is going to achieve on her magical birthday, like meeting a famous pop star and driving a fancy red car. When she gets a mysterious present -- sixteen numbered candles in a box -- it appears all her wishes are coming true!
With each candle lit, one of her wishes is granted. The pop star icon of her dreams shows up. A cherry red car appears out of nowhere. Everything is going great for Abby, until one of her wishes backfires. Suddenly, she's being treated like a grownup, and not even her best friend Jay (Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Kyle XY) recognizes her.
Look, I'm all for family friendly programming. Parents want movies that are sweet and wholesome and not morally reprehensible? I'm with you, but there's simply no excuse to insult the intelligence of your family by subjecting them to garbage. There are so many television shows and movies that actually treat its teenage subjects like human beings, with real feelings and emotions and situations. 16 Wishes is a caricature of teenage tropes and artificial emotions. This is the emotional equivalent of mall food. It vaguely resembles something edible, but atrophies your insides.
I dislike 16 Wishes. I dislike the smarmy attitude and the artificially contrived fantasy world it exists in. I dislike the one-dimensional characters and the shallow morality. If I was a parent, and I let my kid watch this film, I'd be guilty of a crime. This is a vapid and self-absorbed tale, created by people who have not actually seen a sixteen-year-old kid in real life outside of the zoo.
16 Wishes is like a perfect storm of every bad teenage movie cliché, every immature selfish teenage desire, every reprehensible stereotype, and every horrendous pre-teen soundtrack ever recorded, crammed into one monumental abomination. Forget a piece of straw -- this is a bale of hay dropped from six thousand feet onto the back of a camel. 16 Wishes is the reanimated corpse of John Hughes, malignant with tumors, crawling at your doorstep, a hulking shell of a teen movie.
Okay, in all fairness, I don't think anyone intentionally set out to produce a 90-minute film that made my soul cry. I've got nothing against the cast. Debby Ryan is a Disney star, and she's predictably perky and annoying and adorable in equal measures. Jean-Luc Bilodeau performs adequate double duty as the goofy comic relief-turned-romantic-lead. Everyone is having a good time and collecting a paycheck. No hard feelings. If I was a twelve-year-old girl, I'd probably think this made-for-television movie was a lot of fun. But I'm not. And if I had a twelve-year-old girl, she'd be watching far better movies than this.
16 Wishes features a solid presentation. Colors are saturated and tend to bleed, especially reds. Flesh tones look natural. Black-and-white levels are solidly neutral. Detail is sharp, but there is a noticeable amount of edge enhancement and compression artifacts. Audio is a simple 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround presentation, with clean dialogue, decent bass response, and a straightforward central mix. The rear channels really only come into life during the manufactured emo-punk soundtrack, and you'll wish it didn't.
Extras are slim. We get some cast interviews, a music video, and some trailers.
The most positive thing I can say about 16 Wishes is that the packaging comes with a bag of Silly Bandz, which made my wife squeal with delight.
Within the narrow confines of its Disney Channel genre, 16 Wishes gets the job done, the same way two slices of white bread constitutes a sandwich. But folks, we can do better here. Films like this have an emotional dishonesty, a flagrant disregard for anything genuine in favor of artificially contrived morality lessons that amount to 60 minutes of glorifying the lifestyle of a spoiled brat, only to have the spoiled brat learn the error of her ways in a lean 15-minute denouement.
Just like in real life, right?
Review content copyright © 2010 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Video