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Originally published Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 3:16 PM

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‘Wish I Was Here’ might leave you pining for ‘Garden State’

A review of “Wish I Was Here,” a family dramedy brought to you by Kickstarter and Zach Braff. 2.5 stars out of 4.


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Wish I Was Here,’ with Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Ashley Greene, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon. Directed by Braff, from a screenplay by Zach Braff and Adam Braff. 106 minutes. Rated R for language and some sexual content. Several theaters.

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Zach Braff’s wistful, wandering dramedy “Wish I Was Here” arrives in theaters toting some heavy baggage: It’s both the long-awaited follow-up to Braff’s 2004 debut “Garden State,” and the subject of much pre-release chatter due to its unconventional crowdsourced funding via Kickstarter. And while the movie doesn’t quite stand up to its own hype, it’s not a failure either; it’s an uneven, sometimes charming, sometimes amateurish exploration of a particular time in a still-young man’s life.

Aidan (Braff), a 30-something Los Angeles husband and father, has more than his share of early-midlife problems: His career as an actor is going nowhere; his father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), is dying; his eccentric brother, Noah (Josh Gad), is distant; his children (Joey King, Pierce Gagnon) must leave their expensive yeshiva school (Gabe, who was paying tuition, can’t afford it anymore); his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), who supports the family in a dead-end office job, is getting resentful. “When did this relationship become solely about supporting your dream?” she asks, clamping her eyes on him like a vise.

That’s a lot of plot, and a lot of resolution; the screenplay (by Braff and his brother Adam) has to scramble to tie up all these loose ends neatly, in a way that doesn’t always feel quite like life. And Braff hasn’t quite gotten over his “Garden State” habit of letting pop songs fill in the emotion that a more confident director could trust his actors to handle themselves. But “Wish I Was Here,” with its heartfelt theme of a family finding a stronger connection, is hard to resist; particularly King’s sweetly earnest character (preteen Grace always looks like she just might burst into tears, in a very real way) and Aidan’s valiant, good-guy struggles to try to make everything work out. Once a child who dreamed of being a superhero, Aidan realizes in maturity that most of us are “the regular people — the ones who get saved.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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