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16 Wishes DVD Review

Disney's 16 Wishes (2010) DVD cover art -- click for larger view and to buy DVD from Amazon.com 16 Wishes
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Peter DeLuise / Writer: Annie DeYoung

Cast: Debby Ryan (Abigail Louise Jensen), Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Jay Kepler), Anna Mae Routledge (Celeste), Karissa Tynes (Krista Cook), Patrick Gilmore (Bob Jensen), Kendall Cross (Sue Jensen), Cainan Wiebe (Mike Jensen), Brenda Crichlow (Miss Duffy), Keenan Tracey (Logan Buchanan), Jesse Reid (Theodore), Joel Semande (Joey Lockhart), Jenna Romanin (Fashionista 1), Eva Allen (Fashionista 2), Gary Jones (Principal Mr. Smith), Patricia Isaac (Snooty Saleswoman), Alistair Abell (DMV Tester Harold), Dan Joffre (Apt Landlord), Kailey Cross (8 Yr Old Abby Jensen), Mitchell Duffield (8 Yr Old Jay Kepler), Alyssa Wellington (8 Yr Old Krista)

Original Air Date: June 25, 2010 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: G

Songs: Debby Ryan - "A Wish Comes True Every Day"; Minnutes - "Princess Girl"; Keith and Renee - "No One's Fool"; Chase Ryan, Michael Popp, Aaron Harvey - "Saying Goodbye"; Chad Gendason - "Bad Momma"; Jennifer Cathcart - "Picture Perfect"; Not By Choice - "The Way It Used to Be"; Debby Ryan and Chase Ryan - "Open Eyes"; Willknots - "Vertigo"; Willknots - "Don't Wanna Grow Up"; Chad Gendason - "Overreaction"

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (High-Def Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned or Subtitled
DVD Release Date: November 16, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $27.97
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover with Bandz
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($29.97 SRP)

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com • Buy on Blu-ray from Amazon.com


Whether your familiarity with Disney entertainment extends back to Annette Funicello, Hilary Duff, or Miley Cyrus, you know that the position of young actress/singer is not a new one at the company. I'm not sure that any child with starlet ambitions has a shot at the Mouse without possessing both musical and acting talents.
Neither area has to be mastered; the standards of the calling's main stage, Disney Channel, and its viewers are not the highest, plus there are tricks (electronic enhancement, forceful canned laughter) to pick up slack. Still, there are only a handful of lucky young ladies currently thus employed at Disney. Though plenty visible, class queen Cyrus is basically an alumnus now. Of those next in line, "Wizards of Waverly Place" star Selena Gomez presently seems more likely to assume the throne than her troubled best friend, Camp Rock and "Sonny With a Chance" star Demi Lovato. Look beyond them, and you'll find other double threats, or else they'll find you in a DVD music video or Disney Channel Original Movie.

Like Gomez and Lovato, Debby Ryan got her start working with public television's favorite purple dinosaur, Barney. Ryan's big break seemed to come when she was cast as Bailey Pickett, a country girl aboard the S.S. Tipton in Dylan and Cole Sprouse's "The Suite Life on Deck." That seabound sitcom hasn't had the impact of "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", the hotel series from which it was spun. But it's still running, with third season episodes debuting about twice a month since last summer. That seems long enough for Ryan to have gotten a chance to star in one of Disney Channel's signature movies. And this year, she finally did. Or so it looked.

Once a practically monthly occurrence, Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) have grown sparse. And this year, to complement four all-Disney productions, the basic cable powerhouse also premiered two independent co-productions. The first was March's Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, starring Jennifer Stone of "Wizards of Waverly Place." The second was June's 16 Wishes, which not only featured Ryan as familiar talent in front of the camera, but also worked from a screenplay by Annie DeYoung, who has written nothing but DCOMs since 2006's Return to Halloweentown. Throw in a director and male lead from another youth-oriented Disney cable property (ABC Family's "Kyle XY") and you get something that is like a Disney Channel Original Movie in everything but name.

Actual producer/distributor Marvista Entertainment has over fifty credits to its name (which might actually be MarVista or Mar Vista, depending on whom you believe), almost all of them television movies and almost all of them things you have neither seen nor heard of. 16 Wishes may be their most recognized children's title to date. Even so, without Disney's marketing muscle extending to home video, you are completely forgiven if you weren't aware that this movie was released to DVD and Blu-ray earlier this month from Image Entertainment.

Abigail Jensen (Debby Ryan) has been looking forward to her 16th birthday from a young age, but she didn't think it would start with a lit cake first thing in the morning. The rules of "16 Wishes" are very clear; don't even think about taking back that sushi wish!

In 16 Wishes, Ryan plays Abby Jensen, a girl who has been looking forward to her sixteenth birthday her whole life. It's finally here, along with computer-generated wasps. The infestation is investigated by Celeste (Anna Mae Routledge), a seemingly magical exterminator (more like a birthday fairy godmother) with big things up her sleeve. The Jensen house must be evacuated, but Celeste saves one of Abby's most prized possessions, her long-developed list of sixteen wishes for when she turns 16.

Right after that, Celeste shows up at Abby's bus stop with a personal delivery for her: a box of sixteen numbered candles and a box of matches from the Lucky Duck restaurant. With at least three more expository lines than necessary, Abby figures out that each candle corresponds to an item on her numbered list. Light it, make the wish, blow out the candle and voilà, it comes true. No wish is too big; within a few minutes, Abby has met her childhood crush, pop star Joey Lockhart (Joel Semande), and been delivered a new fancy red car.

The fun is just getting started, as Abby revels in the opportunity to show up her popular, privileged neighbor, classmate, and longtime rival Krista Cook (Karissa Tynes), who is also celebrating her birthday with a new car and driver's license. Abby acquires the coolest clothes and handbag in school, beats Krista in a gym class volleyball game, and even wins student body president as a write-in vote. Abby's lifelong BFF Jay (Jean-Luc Bilodeau, the "Kyle XY" actor), who is established early on as having unnoticed feelings for her, isn't a fan of what hourly wish fulfillment is turning Abby into. She doesn't seem to mind. Until Wish #9 comes true, that is.

That one -- "when I'm 16, people will stop treating me like a kid" -- somehow ages Abby to 22, or at least that's what everyone around her sees and tells her (the blazer, high heels and dangle earrings are a dead giveaway). Because adulthood is just so dang awful (having her own place and needing to come up with rent, ugh!), Abby tries to sort out her life, but she can't change her wish list and none of her childhood fancies seem to help. Plus, as Celeste explained them, the rules call for all granted wishes to become permanent at midnight. To add insult to injury, this alternate reality (which never makes sense) seems to work out better for everyone but Abby.

You definitely won't be able to predict the ending or if Abby ends up with the boy she's crushing on or someone worthier and higher billed.

As Abby's birthday fairy, Celeste (Anna Mae Routledge) wears many different hats, including counselor, deliverywoman, decorator, and, here, fashionable costumer. Be careful what you wish for... Abby Jensen (Debby Ryan) winds up the worst thing in the world: an independent blazer-wearing 22-year-old grownup.

16 Wishes is innocuous, basic adolescent programming, laying out its romance, comedy, and fantasy with transparency but also competency. Ryan displays better chops than "Suite Life on Deck" requires and than many of her contemporaries would muster. Bilodeau is also fine as leading boy. The script is a little less shallow and broad than typical 21st century Disney Channel fare. But to heap any higher praise than that would be to overstate the charms of this average fluff.

One benefit to this being an Image Entertainment release is that 16 Wishes was simultaneously released on Blu-ray, a format that despite heavily promoting the notoriously reserved Disney has typically shunned for all but its highest profile titles.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, 16 Wishes appears in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks almost perfect. The picture is clean and adequately detailed. It could offer better contrast and interlacing as well as a touch more sharpness, but most viewers should be delighted by the great video, coming as it does from a smaller, not always reliable studio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also without issue. It dispenses the occasional sound effect (buzzing wasps) and the more common pop music (differing from the usual manufactured DCOM soundtrack) clearly and effectively. One minor annoyance is that neither subtitles nor closed captions are provided. If your English and hearing are fine, you won't need them, but it's inexcusable for something that airs on TV not to include captioning in its purchased state.

In a brief interview, actor Jean-Luc Bilodeau discusses the age difference between him and love interest Debby Ryan, but remains vague about his superstitious practices. Debby Ryan rocks out in front of her castmates in her "A Wish Comes True Everyday" music video, which differs from the song's outtakes-enhanced film-closing performance. A conniving act by competitive nemesis Krista Cook (Karissa Tynes) gets its due in the DVD's sparkly main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Not displaying even the modest effort Disney shows its own DCOMs, Image Entertainment supplies just two short actor interviews and a music video, all in 16:9.

In the first of those interviews, Debby Ryan (1:30) discusses the opening scene she just shot, her song, and the pore strip she's wearing.

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Jean-Luc Bilodeau (1:58) sells the movie, describes his character, and shares his thoughts on wishes and Debby Ryan.

The music video is Debby Ryan's for opening and closing theme "A Wish Comes True Everyday" (3:14), which weaves original footage of Ryan singing at school, a dance, in the studio, and in her pajamas with a few clips from the movie. It's an above-average presentation of routine tween-friendly pop but an essential inclusion nonetheless.

The DVD opens with a pretty random trailer for the angel drama Fallen. Contrary to press materials, a trailer for 16 Wishes is not offered.

The main menu plays montage to "A Wish Comes True Everyday", with a border of pink rays and sparkles illustrating the movie's completely unisex appeal.

Like most modern DVDs, 16 Wishes doesn't include a chapter insert inside its black Eco-Box keepcase. What it does include, however, is certain to be considered much cooler by the target audience. It is a package of "16 collectible Wishes Bandz." In case you don't know, Bandz (most commonly Silly Bandz) are all the rage with the grade school sect, much of which has had them banned from their classrooms. They're colored rubber bands that take a shape when not in use. The sixteen found here include a microphone, a car, a high heel, hearts, stars, lightning bolts, a shooting star, a dollar sign, and several indeterminate squiggles. Each is pink, purple, or turquoise. While they may not mean much to adults, they must rank as the year's coolest in-package DVD inclusion for kids, but not very small kids, for whom they possess a choking hazard. On the slipcover (which loses points for using a comma instead of a period in its tagline), a sticker advises that these bands are available in limited quantities, so you may not be guaranteed to get them much longer.

Lovelorn Jay Kepler (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) and his bus stop BFF Abby (Debby Ryan) are amazed to find her first two of sixteen birthday wishes instantly granted.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

16 Wishes is just a touch smarter and more sincere than most modern Disney Channel movies. Its formulaic story and modest methods won't do much for anyone in high school or older, but it at least it delivers its prudent moral in a painless and reasonably tasteful fashion. Image's DVD is just fine, but this isn't something most will need to own and revisit regularly.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy on Blu-ray

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Buy the 16 Wishes Soundtrack: CD • Amazon MP3 • iTunes

Related Reviews:
New: Ramona and Beezus • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse • Eat Pray Love • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World • The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Debby Ryan: The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away! • Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana • The Search for Santa Paws
Jean-Luc Bilodeau: Kyle XY: The Complete Third/Final Season • Kyle XY: The Complete First Season
Cable TV Movies: Fred: The Movie • Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam • Mrs. Miracle • Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
Written by Annie DeYoung: StarStruck • Princess Protection Program • Return to Halloweentown
Sonny with a Chance: Sonny's Big Break • I Heart Jonas • Hannah Montana: Miley Says Goodbye? • Glee: The Complete First Season
10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One • Mickey Mouse Club: The Best of Britney, Christina & Justin • Big (Extended Edition)
Wish Gone Amiss • Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue

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Reviewed November 30, 2010.



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