In Brief: A Disney animated movie. And it’s also Disney at its worst. Before COVID this one goes straight to DVD.
Raya and the Last Dragon is the animated tale that pits dedication, loyalty and bravery against deceit, deviousness and greed. Or to put it a different way, this offering from Disney’s animated movie machine dishes up the usual, very familiar, and very tired, dish.
The film opens with Raya narrating 500 years of the history of the folks inhabiting Kumandra. At one time the inhabitants cohabitated with dragons. Then evil struck in the form of the Druun. The dust and smoke they produce turns humans to stone. All that stopped them from totally destroying the world was the selfless act of one, brave dragon.
Sisu’s efforts got all the people turned back into people but the dragons stayed turned to stone. Then Sisu disappeared. At that point the dragon-shaped land was divided up into five kingdoms.
Kumandra is shaped like a dragon. Instead of being one nation and working together, the peoples of Fang, Heart, Spine Talon and Tail began to look after just themselves. The selfless people of Heart protected all of them from the return of the Druun. An event triggered by Raya caused the Druun’s to return and sent her scurrying about the land in search of Sisu. She needs the dragon to help save her people.
All of this is couched in a Buddhist-like philosophy.
The only group that will even be remotely entertained by this is small children. Unfortunately, the heavy philosophical overtones will likely go over their heads. On the other hand, it will be far too simple and — for lack of a better term — childish for adults to come close to enjoying.
Worse, the animation is just so-so. Dragons — as we know — aren’t supposed to be pretty. Sisu and her kin look more like the horses from My Little Pony than the dragons of How to Train Your Dragon. The land of Kumandra is stereotypical Disney and not even close to original. These things, and an awful script, come courtesy of four directors who wrote the story with four other writers. Movies by committee rarely work and this one is a real mess.
Directors: Don Hall, Carlos Lopez Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa
Stars: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Isaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Gemma Chan, Benedict Wong, Alan Tudyk, Sandra Oh
Rated PG for mature themes. Terrible movie. Boring for kids and adults alike. This dragon’s fire burns out quickly. Give it a 2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can find Raya and the Last Dragon at a few local Portland area theaters.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.