Wish I Was Here has Zach Braff and Kate Hudson as Aidan and Sarah Bloom. They have two wonderful kids. His father -- played most excellently by Mandy Patinkin -- has been paying for the kids to go to a Hebrew school. He's dying of cancer and has to discontinue the tuition.
That leads to a family crisis. What to do about the education of the kids? When is Aidan's acting career going to take off and finally bring income into the family? Sarah provides the family paycheck and hates her job. Then there's coming to terms with death and ultimately with life.
Wish I Was Here is packed with real-life themes. Love. Forgiveness. Hope. Dreams. Religion. Life. And, of course, death. All are elements brilliantly woven together.
Braff is a terrific actor and his character is the fulcrum that the story balances upon. Hudson is in her element, and the kids Joey King (White House Down), as the couple's ultra-religious adolescent daughter and Pierce Gagnon (Looper) are believable and funny. Rounding out the cast are Patinkin, Josh Gad as Aidan's estranged brother and The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, who has a small part.
When Garden State was released in 2004, Braff -- who wrote, directed and starred and does the same here -- was Hollywood's new golden boy. Then nothing. A decade later, Braff and his brother Adam have written a film as good as Garden State.
Smiles are mixed with laughs and with tears. And like real life, Braff and his brother's dialogue ranges from silly to insane to profound. This is deep, wonderful stuff and is the year's best feel-good movie and one of my 2014 favorites.
Director: Zach Braff
Stars: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Jim Parsons, Josh Gad
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.