Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Writer: Jeffrey Reddick, Jonathan Doyle, William Halfon
Producer: Timothy Woodward Jr., Lauren de Normandie, Johnny Cleveland, Jeffrey Reddick, Thommy Hutson
Stars: Michael Welch, Melissa Bolona, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Lin Shaye, Spencer Locke, Tony Todd, Kaiwi Lyman, Jean Elie, Christopher Murray
Summoned back to his childhood home by his father’s death, a struggling lawyer finds a cursed urn capable of granting wishes.
Aaron can’t catch a break. Having a Podunk law school on his résumé booked him a hasty exit from a hopeless job interview. $3000 in unpaid rent bought new locks on his apartment door. Making a bad day worse, Aaron’s ex-girlfriend Lisa calls with terrible news. Aaron’s father just died, and his grieving mother Kate needs him to come home.
Do people actually say, “the prodigal son returns” in real life? They certainly say it in films constructed out of clichés, which describes by-the-book thriller “The Final Wish” to a T.
Upon arriving at his mother’s lonely farm, Aaron renews rivalry one of two in a single scene establishing contentious neighbor Yates and his obnoxious dog Paddington. Add Tyrone while mentally filing away Yates for later. Ty also stops by to make brief acquaintances with the audience before rushing off until his role becomes relevant down the line.
After reuniting with Lisa once at the wake and again at a yard sale, Aaron reconnects with another old friend, Jeremy. Over breakfast and beers at an all-night diner, Aaron next encounters Derek, the high school bully turned sheriff currently dating Lisa. Word around town says Derek’s violent nature often has him putting hard hands on Aaron’s former flame.
At long last, everyone has finally had his or her introductory sequence. Now “The Final Wish” can actually get on with its story.
Aaron initially doesn’t think much about the odd urn among his dead father’s Lewis Vendredi-like collection of mysterious antiques. Eventually he notices curious coincidences between out loud musings of things he’d like to have happen followed by unexpected swings of good luck by way of bad circumstances.
Roughly the only way “The Final Wish” differentiates its predictable recycling of the familiar fable already told better in stories like “The Monkey’s Paw” and even “Wish Upon” (review here) lies in the fact that for five of his seven wishes, Aaron doesn’t know what power he wields. As a result, we’re cheated out of imaginative situations for creative consequences because Aaron idly wishes for stupid things like the neighbor’s dog to stop barking. When Aaron wishes to be better looking, the only physical change involves his cleft palate scar disappearing. If I made that wish and a genie didn’t give me the full George Clooney treatment, I’d demand a do over.
To dig up details regarding what’s really going on and pivot into the last act, Aaron follows a three-dot trail to fill in remaining blanks. In an uncomplicated bit part that could have been played by your local mail carrier with no material change, Tony Todd briefly tells Aaron about the urn’s history. Todd’s librarian connects Aaron to Lynette, one more person previously introduced in a single scene who finally fulfills her purpose of pushing the plot forward. Lynette leads Aaron to Mr. Exposition #3, her archaeologist father who went mad from the urn’s curse and cut out his own tongue.
Aaron and Lisa visit Lynette’s father at the ‘Cuyohoga (sic) Woods Psychiatric Institute.’ Since “The Final Wish” sets itself in Ohio, I assume the location was meant to be ‘Cuyahoga.’ But you can’t expect anyone to pay attention to spelling accuracy when filmmakers are more concerned with giving their friends’ cameos unnecessary close-ups. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ‘Horror Décor 101’ design of an asylum with cracked walls and peeling paint where assorted crazies cradle dolls and giggle maniacally.
I don’t suppose there is any need to say more about the story. Now that you know the players, you can figure out their fates. Unless it somehow isn’t obvious why Aaron needs two friends in the background and an abusive beau for the woman he remains in love with.
Lin Shaye occupies the film’s biggest bright spot. Loose directing allowing her to go over the top while the camera bizarrely shoots head-on makes her crazy scenes campier than intended. But Shaye dials down dramatics to reasonable levels for effective emotional moments in early scenes of mourning and awkward reconciliation with her estranged son. Now if we could figure out where her character finds the time to replace all of the CR2032 batteries in the 100 or so LED candles conspicuously lighting her house, we’d be on to something.
I’ve struggled with whether or not to call out a particular performer by name because I honestly do not believe this person has a healthy career on the horizon anyway. Echoing the evil jinn’s agenda, someone in “The Final Wish” has such a vacant face and absence of onscreen energy that the soul gets sucked out of each scene s/he is in. I sighed at every appearance as momentum screeched to an immediate halt. One of the deadest fish I’ve ever seen in a film where everyone else’s worst is still good enough to be passable.
“The Final Wish” becomes bothersome because genre vets like Shaye, Todd, and “Final Destination” scribe Jeffrey Reddick are at the wheel, yet everyone drives under the speed limit on a well-traveled road. If an element isn’t already rote, then the movie makes sure it is ham-handed. If a story beat isn’t already frustratingly formulaic, the movie makes sure to foreshadow it for you. If I had Aaron’s titular opportunity to undo disappointments, I’d go back to before the film went into production with such a stale concept.
Review Score: 45