Movie Review: Messy 'Wish I Was Here' a heartfelt effort

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Like the swear jar in the Bloom household, the quirkiness quotient in “Wish I Was Here” is full.

Six-year-old Tucker tries to take a cordless drill to the yeshiva school he and his older sister, Grace (Joey King), attend. Their dad, out-of-work actor Aidan (Zach Braff), is caught masturbating to erotic material on his laptop by his widowed father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin). 

Aidan’‍s wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), has a boring office job and an insufferable cubicle mate given to saying inappropriate things. Gabe’‍s reclusive other son, Noah (Josh Gad), lives in a trailer near the Pacific Ocean and is working on a costume for Comic-Con.

'Wish I Was Here' movie trailer

Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family.

The Blooms’‍ barely ordered lives are thrown into further chaos when Gabe announces that his cancer has returned, he is trying a last-ditch experimental treatment and will no longer be able to pay for the children’‍s schooling. “What’‍ll we do?” he says to Aidan. “We move forward. That’‍s the only direction God gave us.”

With no money for private school, no tuition help from the rabbi and no desire to enroll the children in public schools, Aidan decides to home school the children, an alternative that does not go according to plan or lesson plan, if there were one. At the same time, Gabe lands in the hospital, and Aidan re-evaluates his faith, career path and the brothers’‍ boyhood dreams of being superhero spacemen.

This is the first movie directed by Mr. Braff since his 2004 indie hit, “Garden State,” about a young man who starts to rediscover himself when he returns to his hometown for his mother’‍s funeral. Mr. Braff wrote this screenplay with his brother, Adam, and it also deals with the loss of a parent, but it addresses thorny questions about God, supporting a family, educating children inside and outside a classroom, and how small, ordinary acts can be heroic.

'Wish I Was Here'

Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin.

Rating: R for language and some sexual content.

“Wish I Was Here,” a fabulous title, was partially funded by a crowd-sourcing campaign, and the credits offer a “very special thanks to the 46,520 backers on Kickstarter. Without them, this film would have never been made.” Just over 400 individuals or pairs are thanked by name at movie’‍s end.

The dramedy is occasionally heartfelt, especially when ailing Gabe is on screen, and Joey King (Channing Tatum’‍s daughter in “White House Down”) exudes a sincerity and innocence as a girl who takes her Jewish heritage and education very seriously. 

But it zigzags all over the place, from a serious bedside chat to a misbehaving dog, an errant punch, or the second and superior use of the Paul Simon song “Obvious Child” in recent weeks. It’‍s like navigating a road with sharp curves that sends you left and then right and onto a straightaway and some bumpy stretches and then it ends and ends again.

It has an undisciplined but sometimes lovable quality. It’‍s messy, like life. 

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

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