More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
Advertisement

Overall Rating
5

Awesome100%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 0 user ratings


Latest Reviews

Transference: A Love Story by Erik Childress

Thunder Force by Peter Sobczynski

Voyagers by Peter Sobczynski

Flaming Brothers by Jay Seaver

French Exit by Lybarger

Perdita Durango by Jay Seaver

Godzilla vs. Kong by Peter Sobczynski

Charlatan by Jay Seaver

Nobody (2021) by Lybarger

Raya and the Last Dragon by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed


Raya and the Last Dragon
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Sho'Nuff"
5 stars

The surprisingly strong opening weekend box-office for the “Tom and Jerry” boondoggle served as a clear indicator that there was such a pent-up demand for big-screen family entertainment that people were even willing to undergo all the risks out there for something as crummy as that. Now I am not saying that I quite recommend returning to the multiplex experience quite yet but for those are comfortable to making such an excursion with their families, it is a good thing that there is a film out there far more deserving of such efforts in the form of the new Disney production “Raya and the Last Dragon.” While such recent efforts from the studio such as “Onward” and “Soul” have attempted to break free of the usual formulas with middling-at-best results, this one effortlessly subverts most expectations of what one might find in such film—no songs, no romantic byplay (however chaste), not even a true villain, so to speak—and then supplies enough wit, style, energy and emotion so that you won’t even miss those familiar elements.

Five hundred years ago, the mystical land of Kumandra—a fictional realm that takes its inspiration from various Southeast Asian countries—was a land of peace and prosperity where the people live in harmony with each other and with the dragons that both protect and serve them. One day, the land was attacked by the Druun, smoky creatures who can turn man and dragon alike into stone and in a final effort to save the day, the last remaining dragon, Sisu, managed transform herself into a magical gem with the power to banish the Druun. Unfortunately, this led to the land breaking up into five different countries—Fang, Heart, Spine, Tail and Talon—who are constantly squabbling over who possesses the gem. A half-millennium later, in the country of Heart, young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) has been placed in charge of protecting the gem by her father (Daniel Day Kim), the leader of the land. In an effort to make Kumandra whole again, he has invited representatives from the other countries to plead with them to put their differences aside and work together. Unfortunately, this does not go over while and when Namaari (Gemma Chan), a girl from Fang, betrays Raya’s trust to try to steal the gem, it it shatters and causes the return of the Druun to boot, turning many, including Raya’s dad, into stone as they attempt to escape.

Five years later, the guilt-ridden Raya is traversing the now-ruined lands in the hopes of finding the remaining gem pieces—each country has one—and reassembling them in the hopes of banishing the Druun, restoring those turned to stone back to life and revitalize the land. To help her in this, she ventures to where the remains of Sisu supposedly lay, performs a ritual and brings the creature (now featuring the voice of Awkwafina) back from the dead. Together, they set off to the other lands to retrieve the additional pieces and along the way acquire a rag-tag group of friends to aid in their quest—smart-aleck 10-year-old boat captain Boun (Izaac Wang), infant grifter Noi (Thalia Tran) and hulking warrior Tong (Benedict Wong)—whose unique skills come into play. Following them is Namaari, who figures out what her old nemesis is up to and tries to steal the gems back so that Fang can have all of the power for itself.

I suppose that at first glance, the idea of “Raya and the Last Dragon” did not exactly fill me with much of a desire to see it. For starters, it seemed to be yet another mystical quest narrative involving strange worlds, mystical talismans and the like—a narrative form that can be good in the right hands but which, as a rule, tends to do precious little for me. For another thing, for whatever reason—I suspect it was a traumatic reaction to having seen the original “Pete’s Dragon” at an early age and realizing even then just how boring it was—the very notion of a talking dragon makes me flinch. (To this date, I still have not gotten more than 20 minutes in “Dragonheart” and it took me several seasons before I was finally assured that the beasts in “Game of Thrones” wouldn’t start yakking.) Here, on the other hand, I didn’t mind because I thought that co-directors Carlos Lopez Estrada and Don Hall made smart and effective use of both concepts. The film is an epic journey but it is the rare one that actually takes the time to explore the various lands that Raya and the others visit instead of just having them serve as the anonymous backgrounds to the big action beats. Through the exquisite visual design and intriguing screenplay, you get a real sense of the various realms that actually adds a certain degree of heft and import to the story that raises the emotional stakes for viewers in real and recognizable ways.

As for Sisu, that admittedly took a little longer to get behind but eventually I found myself liking the dragon as well. Granted, part of this may be the fact that there is enough shape-shifting on its part throughout so that it isn’t always appearing in full drag(on) mode. A bigger part, however, is the smart and entertaining performance from Awkwafina as Sisu. The role has clearly be conceived with memories of the genie from “Aladdin” in mind and while Awkwafina doesn’t go for the rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness approach that Robin Williams utilized to such striking effect, her charmingly goofy and laid-back delivery inspires a number of very big laughs. More importantly, when the mood becomes darker and more somber,, she, having proved that she has considerable dramatic chops as well with her performance in “The Farewell,” handles that stuff as well and invest the story with more pathos than one might readily expect to find from a story involving a talking dragon.

“Raya and the Last Dragon” is a lot of fun—it is visually impressive, viscerally exciting (the action sequences are genuinely thrilling), often quite funny and even genuinely moving at certain points. It is a true family film in the sense that it is one of those rare movies that should have no trouble appealing to viewers of all ages. Again, I do not necessarily endorse going out to theaters at this point, which is a shame in this case as this is a film that is begging to be seen on the big screen. However, even at home, it clearly stands as proof that magic—movie magic, that is—still exists even in these dark times.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33400&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/05/21 07:01:11
[printer] printer-friendly format  

IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:


Discuss this movie in our forum

USA
  05-Mar-2021 (PG)
  DVD: 18-May-2021

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Mar-2021


Directed by
  Paul Briggs
  Dean Wellins

Written by
  Adele Lim

Cast
  Kelly Marie Tran
  Awkwafina
  Daniel Dae Kim
  Gemma Chan
  Cassie Steele



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 
eFilmCritic.com: Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast