Review: Disney’s ‘Raya And The Last Dragon’ Is Something For The Whole Family

Mar 5, 2021, 6:10 AM | Updated: Jun 11, 2021, 7:18 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Back in September of 2020, Disney studios did something unprecedented at the time: skipping a theatrical release for their big-budget, live-action remake of “Mulan” and instead sent it straight to streaming on Disney+ as a premium purchase.

Now, six months later, they’re sending another big film to Disney+, but this time you can also see the animated feature “Raya and the Last Dragon” in theaters if you choose.

The story takes place in the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons once lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, it’s 500 years later and that same evil has returned, but there are no dragons and a very divided and distrustful group of humans.

So it’s up to a lone warrior named Raya to track down the mythical last dragon in hopes of destroying the evil and healing the land.

I didn’t really know much of anything about this movie before I watched it. I hadn’t even seen the trailer. But what I found was an original and fun story that everyone in family seemed to enjoy.

The movie kind of mixes several genres and styles, going from a western, Clint Eastwood-type movie feel, to occasional Asian martial arts-style moments. It’s no surprise that the movie is heavily influenced by southeast Asian culture.

And of course, there are generous helpings of the fantasy look and feel that you see in the trailers clips. The visuals were off-the-charts gorgeous at times, with bright, pastel colors and an almost-dreamlike feel to it.

I also really liked how the movie balanced being serious and silly, never veering too far in one direction or the other.

Some of the funniest parts involve a toddler who is a con-artist.  Yeah – a toddler con artist.

Raya is voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, who’s best known as playing Rose Tico in the last two “Star Wars” movies. She does a pretty good job with her character, who has some anger and trust issues.  Comedian Awkwafina, from “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy, Rich Asians,” voices the dragon Sisu, and Gemma Chan plays Raya’s frenemy, Namaari.

The entire cast is of Asian descent with the exception of Alan Tudyk, who provides the grunting noises for Raya’s pet.

They all do fine, but there was no standout performance like Robin Williams in “Aladdin,” for example.

There’s also a good message of trust and forgiveness and sacrifice woven through the story that I was glad to have my kids see.

There’s not much as far as warnings go. It’s rated PG and safe for all ages. It’s only 90 minutes long, so even the littlest ones should be able to handle it OK if you go to the movie theater.

Watching it at home you can obviously just send them off somewhere if they get bored. My 7-year-old would not stop talking through the whole thing.  And, I know this may not matter, but it’s worth noting in case it helps, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is not a musical.

Overall, my family and I all enjoyed “Raya and Last Dragon.”  I give it 3 out of 4 stars, and I think those who were looking forward to it already will be probably be satisfied.

The big question is going to be for parents who have to decide: “Do I take my kids to the theater yet?  Or do we spend the $30 fee and watch it on Disney Plus at home?”

“Raya” is not included with your regular Disney+ subscription, like the Pixar movie “Soul” was at Christmas. You will have to pay a single-time fee of $30 on top of your monthly Disney+ fee.  It does give you unlimited number of times watching it, so if you have a big family or little kids who like to watch things over and over, it may be the most cost-effective option. I personally prefer the theater experience, and I want to see them stay in business, so I hope a bunch of people will choose that too.

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Review: Disney’s ‘Raya And The Last Dragon’ Is Something For The Whole Family