Review of Wakko’s Wish
Wakko’s Wish combines the traditional
unfair-taxation-by-an-evil-king fairy tale with It's
a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner live along with most of the Animaniacs
cast in the village of Acme Falls. Their
country is taken over by the evil King Salazar, who directs Baron von Plotz to
tax the natives heavily. Dot needs
an operation, but the Warners are destitute.
Seeking relief from their poverty and suffering, Wakko seeks the help of
the wishing star, which falls from the sky and lands on the horizon.
In a moment of exuberance, Wakko tells all the villagers that the first
one to touch the fallen star gets a wish. What
ensues is a race involving nearly every Animaniacs character to become
the first one to reach the star.
The movie, like the television show, is largely driven by words, not looks. The animation by TMS-Kyokuichi is good, but you won’t see anything particularly striking. Wakko’s Wish is a musical featuring ten songs, which gives Randy Rogel a chance to showcase his masterful skill as a lyricist with songs like “The Wishing Star,” and his interpretation of “The Hungarian Rhapsody.”
There’s a lot about this movie that will please die-hard Animaniacs fans. Just about every character makes a cameo, and the “cave of your worst nightmare” scene provides a nice retrospective of the Warners’ antagonists through the years. However, a concerted effort is made in Wakko’s Wish to produce a genuine Animaniacs drama, something that comes at the expense of the fast-paced, witty dialogue and slapstick humor we’ve come to expect from Animaniacs. Some fans of the show may find that the characters seem distant without the “fourth wall” being regularly broken. That’s not to say that the film is entirely humorless: Pinky and the Brain’s appearances are quite funny, and there are more than a few good puns, including a notable one involving Skippy Squirrel’s testicles. But, we don’t see any of the typical Animaniacs wackiness until the Warner siblings directly encounter King Salazar rather late in the movie.
What we do see is an expansion of character reminiscent of Tom Ruegger’s efforts with Skippy and Slappy Squirrel in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo Clock.” In Wakko’s Wish, the central characters, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are bestowed with pathos. They display genuine emotion without much of a punch line to neutralize the effect. Taking a step back from slapstick with these characters is a difficult task, but the writing is backed up with superb voice acting.
Almost all of the voice cast from Animaniacs is back in Wakko’s Wish, even Bernadette Peters and Paul Rugg. Jess Harnell’s performance as Wakko is outstanding, especially when singing in character. Rob Paulsen stands out as a more serious, brotherly Yakko and turns out some of his best work as Pinky to date. The brief reappearance of Ben Stein as Pip was a nice touch, chiefly because we get to hear him sing a few bars.
Wakko’s Wish is a good film, but fans have come to expect more daring humor in an Animaniacs product. Younger children should love it, but the movie lacks some of the reassuring moments that the television show was known for: when an adult watching a kids’ show could still detect levels of dialogue and comedy that only an adult could understand. Older kids will notice the difference as well. The effort was solid in Wakko’s Wish, but it’s not a fitting finale to Animaniacs. A sequel was hinted at in the movie; let’s hope it wasn’t just a joke.
Wakko’s Wish is available on video from Warner Home Video. It is not rated and runs 80 minutes.
December 21, 1999
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