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Zach Braff’s ‘Wish I Was Here’ Coasts on Smarm

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Braff as Aiden on one of those humorous shenanigans with the kids in 'Wish I Was Here'

Plus, Braff the actor is up to the challenge. That stare-into-space-and-talk-flatly thing he did whenever he had to break up with Elliot or tell a patient he or she was dying on Scrubs is gone, replaced with something that seems more confident and adult, almost as if he’s willing himself to make new and different acting choices.

As for the story (remember, it’s for the birds—cliché alert!): Struggling thirtysomethings with youngish kids face mortality and life challenges when the family patriarch (and family checkbook) learns he’s dying. After some humorous shenanigans with the kids, the main character and his brother learn something, and the husband and wife learn to love each other the way they used to.

Snore. Patinkin’s gravitas (aided by an enormous beard) goes a long way in making Wish I Was Here watchable, and when he’s not on screen, the movie sort of dries up. For all Braff’s improvements as an actor, the moments when he has to carry things without an adult present—the scenes when he’s home schooling his kids because grandpa’s illness means he can no longer pay for the kids’ private school—are tougher, because it doesn’t seem like these kids are really his. Whether that’s a function of the limitations of his performance, the screenplay, his direction or some combination of all three is a mystery, but it doesn’t bode well that the mystery is sometimes more engaging than his acting.

But in the end, it’s innocuous. And if the crowd that funded this film via Kickstarter is happy, that’s probably what matters. It’s much better than Third Person. Be happy about that.

Wish I Was Here (R)

Dir. Zach Braff; writ. Adam J. and Zach Braff; feat. Zach Braff, Mandy Patinkin, Kate Hudson, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Alexander Chaplin
★★1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Opens Fri, July 18 at Santikos Bijou

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