Movie #170 2021: Wish Dragon (2021)

With clangers like Hubie Halloween and 6 Underground, everyone knows that you should always be weary when any movie comes with the heading “A Netflix Original” attached to it. Imagine my surprise, then, when Wish Dragon (which has a terrible title as it is) was actually a charming and adorable movie.

Wish Dragon was actually released first in China, starring Jackie Chan as Long the Dragon, who also produced the movie. The English Netflix release stars a bunch of big names in the world of Asian-American actors, including John Cho and Constance Wu. Set in Shanghai, the film follows Din, who one day comes to own a magical teapot that grants wishes. Yes, it sounds like Aladdin, and it is like Aladdin, but don’t let that bother you too much. Din wants nothing more than to be reunited with his long lost friend, who he lost touch with when he was child. With three wishes in tow, it suddenly seems like that may come true.

Wish Dragon Director Chris Appelhans Chose Authenticity Over Budget

For something that I had previously assumed would be yet another subpar Netflix film… I’ll say it again: this was surprisingly heartfelt and lovely.

Animation-wise, they’re not exactly re-inventing the wheel here. Compared to other recent Sony animations like Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs the Machines, it’s pretty standard, obviously computer-generated stuff. Despite not being the smoothest visually though, there are still a bunch of little details that keep it interesting and fun to watch. 

Wish Dragon Reviews - Metacritic

It bears repeating: it’s glaringly obvious that upon reading the synopsis, Wish Dragon sounds like your average Aladdin/Genie type story. I mean, it clearly took inspiration from there and it doesn’t even try to hide it. Even John Cho takes inspiration from Robin Williams‘ Genie, and the main character is called ‘Din’, for crying out loud. As in, AladDIN? However, the pacing is pretty great, beginning with a really sweet montage and getting straight into the plot with no messing around. Where it lacks originality, it makes up for it in entertainment and heart, and you can’t really ask for much more than that!

Making Din so likeable is such a smart decision – you have no choice but to root for the lead character. However, the master stroke is John Cho as the dragon itself; he brings a lot of humour and comedic prowess that may have been absent without him. As I said, he definitely took a leaf out of Robin Williams’ book, but that only elevates his performance in all honesty. Plus that creepy villain with the Kung Fu leg is absolute genius. I don’t recall any other animated villain so bizarrely frightening yet so funny.

Honestly, it felt like they stretched out the storyline at parts in order to make it “movie length”, but the message is so sweet and an important lesson about what really matters in life. 

Wish Dragon isn’t exactly the best animated movie ever made but it is entertaining and extremely watchable regardless. Whilst it won’t change your life, there are definitely worse things to watch with your kids.

Wish Dragon is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Rating: ½

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