Zach Braff has had TV and film success with "Scrubs" to "Garden State." Even as good as that work was, nothing compares to the quality of performance, writing and direction he brings to "Wish I Was Here."
Braff's film embraces your emotions by pulling you into a multigenerational story that will make you laugh as hard as you cry.
Writing what he knows, Braff plays Aidan Bloom, a kind-hearted actor who just can't get a big break. That's not been a problem because his successful and supportive wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) has always been there to take care of the family and home. Things change when Aidan must homeschool his children.
Good movies rely on perfect chemistry and "Wish I Was Here" has plenty.
The movie reunites Braff with Joey King, who plays his emotionally confused daughter. They worked together on "Oz the Great and Powerful."
Braff's performance clicks as a father trying to find his own way while being the emotional and personal guide for his children. His connection to the young actors feels natural. He's not a perfect dad and they are not perfect children. But together they seem to pull the best out of each other.
Braff's direction of Hudson and Josh Gad, who plays Aidan's socially stymied brother Noah, creates very sweet and natural moments. This is by far the best performance from Hudson since "Almost Famous." And, it is simply the best work Gad has ever done.
And then there is Mandy Patinkin, who play Aidan's father Gabe. His work reaches new heights. The character goes from comedic to dramatic to endearing with a smoothness that only the mix of the right actor, director and script can achieve.
One of Braff's best skills is knowing how to write real characters. The script, which he co-wrote with his brother Adam, shows outlandish situations can feel organic when viewers are invited to laugh along.
The story and cast are first rate, but the heart of "Wish I Was Here" comes from Braff. He knows how to present characters and situations that are relatable, and he makes the audience feel like they can join in the family's happiness and loss.
The final product is the kind of cinematic delicacy that doesn't come around enough. You'll wish you were there with "Wish I Was Here."
"Wish I Was Here," rated R for language, sexual content. Stars Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin. Directed by Zach Braff. Running time: 120 minutes. hours. Grade: A-