Film Review – Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Title – Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) 

Directors – Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada and Paul Briggs

Cast – (voices of) Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong

Plot – In the magical land of Kumandra, Raya (Tran) must track down the last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina) to help restore peace to her lands that have become a place of warring and mistrust. 

“You just have to take the first step”

Review by Eddie on 04/10/2021

While well animated and taking place across a brisk runtime that never outstays its welcome, Disney’s newest female hero-orientated animated property Raya and the Last Dragon fails to create much in the way of its own identity as it borrows heavily from previous animated staples (with the likes of Brave, Mulan and How to Train Your Dragon all springing to mind) on its way to crafting out a colorful and energetic fantasy adventure that never captures the hearts or minds like you had wished it to do. 

Following Kelly Marie Tran’s Raya, a nice move for the actress after the trials and tribulations of her appearance in the last two Star Wars features, a young warrior tasked with reuniting her world after year’s of warring and animosity amongst various tribes following the demise of the once dragon filled lands, Raya’s familiar set-up of an orphaned child turned young woman fighting for the good of her people and family legacy never does anything we haven’t seen before or done better, despite the best attempts of its enthusiastic voice cast and some fun (if slight) set-pieces. 

Unlike some of the best Disney properties to have existed in times long past and those still fresh in the memory, Raya herself isn’t the most engaging or charming of lead characters and she’s often overshadowed by the antics of Awkwafina’s awakened dragon Sisu or her off-sider pet companion Tuk Tuk, while the initial intrigue about the landscapes of the land of Kumandra quickly gives way to a feeling of half-explored scenarios as Raya and Sisu set off to find missing dragon stone pieces, an adventure that never quite dons wings and makes our imaginations or hearts fly. 

Raya is a hard film too hate, its heart is in the right place and the animation work from Disney is as high quality as you’d have expected it to be but in a world where we are given often magical experiences through Pixar films or hilariously bonkers outings from Dreamworks and the likes, Raya feels like a secondstring player in a field of competing champions as it ends up feeling like a mid-tier effort from Disney too tick off some more culturally diverse and female lead features. 

There’s no doubt that the youngest members of the household may find short term joy in the film, but its unlikely anyone over the age of 10 will be left with much of a lasting impression of this feature that does nothing to stand out from a crowded pack. 

Final Say – 

Never capturing the magic or imagination needed to make it a special outing for the whole family, Raya and the Last Dragon is an overly familiar Disney experience that never provides the charms, heart or laughter you’d have hoped it may’ve delivered. 

2 1/2 con-babies out of 5 

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