Zach Braff returns to the director's chair thanks to a high profile Kickstarter crowdsourcing campaign that raised $3 million. Anyone who's seen his previous Garden State or the series Scrubs will know what to expect with this agreeable but unremarkable comedy.
Happy couple Sarah (Kate Hudson) and Aidan (Zach Braff)
Braff plays a variation on the affable everyman he's known for, this time as a struggling actor in Hollywood. It's slim pickings on the acting front for Aidan, and as a consequence he and his two kids are supported by his wife Sarah (Kate Hudson), much to the disapproval of his father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin).
Until now Gabe has at least had some say into how his grandchildren are raised. His money has financed their education, which he insists on being a traditional Jewish one. Problems arise though when expenses incurred by Gabe's increasingly poor health take a toll on his savings and he can no longer provide financial support for his grandchildren. This in turn puts pressure on Aidan to get a job with a regular income. Sarah suggests he homeschool the kids, but can her really do this without throwing away his dream of being an actor?
Aiden goes shopping with the kids, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) and Grace (Joey King)
Like the film's protagonist, Wish I Was Here often comes across as being overly eager to please. The dramatic elements are slightly heavy handed and there's an awareness that your sympathies are being manipulated by the machinations of the plot.
The film works best during its quieter moments, for example a scene where Aiden is in a waiting room and sees a sign on a stand that says "this brochure could save your life" and then notices there are no brochures left. It's the kind of wistful tone that made Garden State so endearing.
Aidan with fellow auditioning actor, Paul (Jim Parsons)
As a feature film director, Braff's TV sitcom roots are all too obvious, despite his efforts to open up the narrative and visuals with a recurring childhood memory involving superheroes. His strengths are in his likeable screen persona and his ability to write wry and witty dialogue.
Wish I Was Here may be one of the more successful cases of crowdsourcing in terms of revenue raised, but the film's lack of success at the U.S. box office may mean we won't see Braff dipping into that well again. This is a pleasant time-filler, but not one that will get people rushing to the cinema to see it. This is most decidedly a watch at home experience.