RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON (2021)
500 years ago the united peoples of the kingdom of Kumandra fell under attack by sinister beings known as the Druun. The Druun turned all they encountered into stone, till the dragons of Kumandra vanquished them at the cost of their own lives. Over the years, the people split into five kingdoms with only the magical dragon gem to keep the Druun away. When treachery splits the gem into five pieces and thus allows the Druun to return, Princess Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) of the Heart tribe must seek out the legendary last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina) to reunite the pieces of the gem and defeat the Druun once and for all. Standing in her way is bitter rival Namaari (Gemma Chan) of the Fang tribe and 500 years of mistrust between the peoples of this fragmented kingdom.
Film is directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Carlos López from a script by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim (screenwriter of Crazy Rich Asians) and is a fun and very colorful fantasy adventure. Raya is a noble and likable heroine, if not a bit cocky, and a good fit for Last Jedi/Rise of Skywalker’s Kelly Marie Tran, who voices her well. Awkwafina, is having a blast as the goofy, hyperactive and hopeful dragon, Sisu, who can transform into human form and back at will. They work well together and the characters are a nice balance to each other. There is also a colorful group of supporting characters, both good and bad, and the film movies quickly, as Raya seeks out Sisu and then needs to steal all five parts of the gem to reunite it. This is all done under the gun, as the Druun are quickly overtaking the five tribes and laying waste to all the land. There is adventure, escapes, betrayal and unexpected friendships and even if it is a bit predictable, it’s a lot of fun and has a lot of heart. The South Asian-centric design for both land and characters is visually sumptuous and imaginative and the animation is top notch. A really fun and engaging fantasy tale with endearing characters and a classic quest/adventure storyline that includes a nice emotional center. Fun for the whole family.