The Wishing Tree

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
The Wishing Tree Movie Poster Image
Kids unite to save magical tree in odd, overlong tale.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love Mother Nature. We are all colorful hues that nature paints. When humans show courage, God shows up to help. It's only through difficulties that you can be great men and women.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adults for the most part are portrayed as corrupt and uncaring, especially a police officer and the townspeople, who turn against the tree out of greed and ignorance. A dedicated teacher and a few parents are sympathetic. The five lead children are all sympathetic, decent, and open to the tree's magic.   

Violence

Kids are bullied and mocked at school. Thugs attack a restaurant owner. His young helper throws hot water at them. Punches are thrown but it's all played for comedy. A police officer tries to cut down a tree but when his axe makes contact, the tree's powers toss him in the air. A boy steals to help his family when he learns that his father's business is doing poorly. When the tree gets riled, creaky animation waves its branches around angrily like tentacles in the sky. The tree sucks in the foot of a bully. When he pulls his foot out, the tree's branches grab him.
 

Sex

A transgender woman, bald, with eyeliner and in a sari, is mocked by a crowd. 

Language

"S--tty," "fatso."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wishing Tree is a 2017 Hindi-language feature narrated by a magical tree that yearns to help humankind return to its responsible stewardship of the environment. The film is mostly in Hindi with English subtitles. The message targets kids, who may relate to the five bullied children at the heart of the story. Cartoonish violence, in which grown-ups are flung in the air by a powerful magical force, is played mostly for comedy. A boy steals to help his family when he learns that his father's business is doing poorly. When the tree gets riled, creaky animation waves its branches around angrily like tentacles in the sky. The tree sucks in the foot of a bully. When he pulls his foot out, the tree's branches grab him. Language includes "s--tty" and "fatso." A transgender woman, bald, with eyeliner, and in a sari, is mocked by a crowd. Younger children may find some moments scary. 

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What's the story?

THE WISHING TREE features a magical 6,000-year-old tree that, as narrator, calls itself one of the millions of tree sentinels of the environment made by the Indian Creator King when he created the earth millions of years ago. His presence predates Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha -- he speaks admiringly of their wisdom. The movie pleads with humans, and most especially kids, to join trees in guarding the cleanliness of the earth's fragile ecological balance. Small dramas radiate around the tree. A heavyset girl named Nikita (Harshpreet Kaur) laments that she's bullied by classmates at her private Catholic school, and also by her unsympathetic family. She seeks tranquility at the tree and is spoken to by the spirit that lives nearby, a woman with greenish skin, lots of makeup, and veils. The spirit bursts into song as she promises Nikita that her dreams will come true and launches into the history of the Creator King's achievements. Dhanua (Aabhas Yadav) is a youth separated from his mother, who works for slave wages at a restaurant owned by a tyrant. He yearns to sing and dance in Broadway/Bollywood-style extravaganzas that he imagines in his dreams. Fatima (Shivani Joshi), Nikita's classmate, is more privileged, and she, too, wants to sing and dance. Her imagined performances are also featured. Sean (Mark Shaw) is the new kid at the Catholic school, a talented artist who is mocked because he is too shy to speak. Guri (Aditya Manghani) is the fifth misfit who comes to understand the goodness and magical powers of the tree. The kids save the tree from ignorant townspeople who believe evil spirits reside within. 

Is it any good?

This story is all over the place, too long by at least 45 minutes, and too shaggy and undisciplined to even get its well-intentioned messages across. At times The Wishing Tree feels like an incomprehensible mishmash of overacting, song-and-dance routines, and oversimplified instructions on living well. Children literally hug a tree here. Compared with Slumdog Millionaire, a great example of the Indian filmmaking genre that mixes aspiration with bursting into song, this thing feels like someone's badly made home movie. The movie is too scary and long for very young kids, the only audience that might be unsophisticated enough to appreciate the overacting. But even they will be confused by the disjointed storyline. This is way too over-the-top, slow, and silly for anyone else.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what kids can do to become responsible stewards of our natural resources. How do the children learn to stand up for the tree?

  • Once the kids start to gain confidence with help of the tree, how do they help other people? How does The Wishing Tree  suggest that all of us, no matter how difficult our lives are, can help others?

  • What's your favorite fantasy movie? How about your favorite fantasy book or show?

Movie details

For kids who love fantasy

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