3 out of 5 stars (average)
If my audience is anything to go by, kids are going to embrace Raya and The Last Dragon. The newest fantasy from Disney animation has plenty of cool action sequences, a pair of solid voice performances from Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina, and several cute animal sidekicks I’m sure will be made into adorable (and extremely marketable) plushies. Raya and the Last Dragon doesn’t reach the heights of its Disney brethren, but plenty of humor and enjoyable action keep it flying.
Raya (Voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) lives in a world once protected by dragons. However, said world split off into separate tribes after the dragons put their essences into several orbs to protect it from an evil force called The Druun. Believing one dragon could fix everything, Raya finds and releases one called Sisu (Voiced by Awkwafina), who informs her they need to join All the dragon orbs to reunite the earth, starting a quest to find the orbs while evading the Druun and remaining tribe warriors.
Raya and the Last Dragon’s strongest asset is its action sequences. The choreography is intense, the fight locations are distinctive, and the varying animation styles are eye-catching. Raya’s serious demeanor may make her harder for kids to connect to than previous Disney heroines, but her animal sidekicks earned plenty of laughs from the kids in my screening and adults may rejoice at the lack of musical numbers and romantic interests.
Awkwafina’s performance walks that delicate line between endearing and annoying. While much of Sisu’s dialogue sounds like Awkwafina stand-up, she has a good rapport with Tran and nails the dramatic moments. The character dynamics feel curiously underdeveloped and the film is inconsistent about just how far down the toilet this world is, but I’m sure kids will love it regardless. My 26-year-old self isn’t chomping at the bit the see this again, but my 8-year-old self would play it on loop at home.
Raya and the Last Dragon’s familiar narrative is buoyed by enough creative action and humor for a fun family night. See Raya and the Last Dragon either in theaters or at home on DisneyPlus when it’s free in a few months.
Rated PG for Some Violence, Action, And Thematic Elements