Rob Reviews "Raya and the Last Dragon"
With everything going on in the world, there have been a few positive constants, and the content of Disney+ has been one of them. Being the first streaming service to do a “premium” new release last fall with “Mulan,” their second offering in this category had to be one that could make a huge splash (no pun intended) with not only their target demographic but also to a larger audience. And what better way to do that than with Walt Disney Animation Studios latest offering in “Raya and the Last Dragon”.
You see, a long, long time ago, magical dragons lived in a land called Kumandra (whose land is shaped like a dragon) alongside humans. That is until an evil presence known as the Druun threatened their existence, with the dragons sacrificing themselves to save as many of the humans as possible. In doing so, four brave dragons put their powers into a stone that they entrusted to Sisu (Awkwafina), who herself would go into hiding. 500 years later, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) proves herself worth to guard the stone along with her father, Chief Benja (Daniel Dae Kim). As her father tries to unite a land divided since that fateful day, a betrayal breaks the stone into five parts as the Druun returns to finish what it started. Raya then embarks on a quest that will take everything she has and the help of some friends she finds along the way like Sisu to reunite the pieces of the stone (scattered amongst the five kingdoms) to battle the Druun one last time to not only save the day but also her family and the dream of unity.
I cannot say enough good things about this film. Drawing inspiration from the animated (and even some live-action) films that have come before it, I was fully engaged from “Raya and the Last Dragon” from start to finish. The animation is still magical, showing how much the art form continues to evolve over the years, and the voice cast is nothing short of fantastic. From Kelly Marie Tran leading the way to Awkwafina’s wonderful performance that reminded me of all of the great Disney sidekicks from Jiminy Cricket to Mushu, I actually laughed out loud more than once as the story unfolded along with the full gambit of emotions this film has within it. The voice cast goes even deeper with names like Gemma Chan as the rival “princess” whose motivations may be different than they seem, Sandra Oh as her mother, Bendict Wong as the ruler of the land known for its warriors who is really just a big softie, and even Alan Tudyk as an animal that just makes noises (I am starting to wonder if he wants to be Disney’s version of Pixar and John Ratzenberger). There is even a wonderful short that plays before it called “Us Again,” that even without ANY dialog tugged at my heart strings and made me want to watch that again too.
This is a great family film to take the cares of the outside world away for a couple of hours. The premium price within Disney+ is totally worth it, but I would also like the opportunity to see “Raya and the Last Dragon” on a big screen, even in a premium format. With strong themes of family, unity, teamwork, and forgiveness along with a great script, strong voice cast, and beautiful visuals, this is an instant Disney classic!