Typically a PG-13 rating on a horror thriller is a tell – too mild for true horror fans, but acceptable to tweens and above. “Wish Upon” hardly offers an original story, but it does harbor a few shocks and surprises making it worth a look. A strong lead in Joey King and an excellent ensemble cast drive the film - perfectly paced by director John R. Leonetti. Seasoned horror fans might roll their eyes a bit, but screenwriter Barbara Marshall tosses in some decent “oh my god” moments, making “Wish Upon” a respectable mid-summer diversion.
High schooler Clare (King) finds a magical Chinese music box, with etchings that promise to grant the holder seven wishes. Clare — whose mother committed suicide when she was a child — longs to be the popular girl and to not live with her junk-collecting father (Ryan Philippe) in a dilapidated house. At first she doesn’t take the box seriously, but when the girl who bullies her comes down with a flesh-eating bacteria disease, after Clare wishes she would rot, Clare decides to wish some more. What she doesn’t know is the price paid for her requests. Each wish demands a payment of a life close to Clare. Clare’s friends Meredith (Sydney Park) and June (Shannon Purser) first laugh it off, but the box collects its debt. Ryan (Ki Hong Lee), a boy smitten with Clare, gets involved and tries to convince Clare to rid herself of the box, but the draw of the wishes and the demon granting them are far too powerful.
Park and Purser provide the film with some excellent comic relief. They give Clare support and take some pretty impressive digs at the snobs who torment her. For the most part, the high school and Clare’s desire are typical of this sort of film. Clare, while not the ultimate dorky teen, follows in the path of characters like Cady Heron (played by Lindsay Lohan) in “Mean Girls”. In fact, there are many notable parallels between Mean Girls and Wish Upon, but Leonetti and Marshall add a bloody twist and some serious suspense. Enough time has passed between the two films, so newbie teens will appreciate the plot – filled with typical teen themes.
While adults might not find “Wish Upon” as good as their tweens and teens will, it is genuinely entertaining. Philippe, the most noteworthy star, fills a father’s shoes well. It is, however, the youngsters who make “Wish Upon” watchable. Ultimately, in spite of the pedestrian plot, Wish Upon earns a B- in the grade book. A few rungs above a Goosebumps movie, and several below a full-on horror flick, “Wish Upon” works for its target audience.