Movie Reviews

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

raya-and-last-dragon-movie-review-2021Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Family

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Main Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Alan Tudyk, Jona Xiao

Plot: Many years ago in the land of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When an evil force threatened their lives, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the humans, leaving behind a powerful stone that turned the humans against each other. Raya’s father tried to unite them all but failed, leaving Kumandra’s fate in Raya’s hands.

My Thoughts:  I really hope this is the last time I have to watch a new Disney movie in my living room instead of on the big screen, it’s just not the same. Also, is it just me or has Raya and the Last Dragon had virtually no marketing? I don’t watch regular TV to see adverts there but I’ve heard nothing on the radio, seen no posters on buses or billboards, nothing at all. So if you read reports on how Tom and Jerry (2021) is beating this at the box office, don’t for a second think that it’s because Raya is a bad movie. I don’t think it’s up there with the instant classic Disney movies, but it’s still great.

It’s biggest strength lies with its characters. Raya is instantly likable and she’s fearless. As with most Disney movies, the sidekicks are the scene-stealers. Sisu the dragon made me laugh every time she was on screen, Awkwafina did such a great job voicing her. Izaac Wang voices a young boy named Boun, an energetic kid left fending for himself whilst running a restaurant on a boat. He’s so lively! And I haven’t even mentioned half of the supporting cast yet.

Raya and the Last Dragon has some strong Moana vibes to it, but I can’t help but compare it to Onward. Both great animated Disney movies, both with enthralling characters and a stunning fantasy world. But both are missing that extra bit of magic that’s stopping them from being great. Once the disaster had taken place and Raya’s mission was clear, it felt like a quite generic adventure movie. Travel to each location, get the piece of stone, restore the peace, and so on. It’s a fun journey but there aren’t any surprises along the way.

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Best Bit: I thought Raya’s little rag tag gang couldn’t get any better. Then they added a con-artist baby and I lost my mind. After that, they got a big ol’ brute join them and don’t even try to tell me he wasn’t one of the regulars at the Ugly Duckling from Tangled!

Worst Bit: If having to watch this at home instead of the cinema wasn’t bad enough, I had to suffer through my husband making terrible jokes whilst half-watching the movie and half playing his Playstation. “I hope her Dad doesn’t lose his…chiseled chin!” Ughhhhh!

Fun Trivia: The land of Kumandra is inspired by the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos.

My Rating: Three and a half tomatoes I wish I had to hand to throw at the back of my husband’s head.

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Movie Reviews

Over the Moon (2020)

over-the-moon-movie-review-2020-netflixDirector: Glen Keane, John Kahrs

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Main Cast: Cathy Ang, Phillipa Soo, Robert G. Chiu, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Sandra Oh, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn

Plot: 4 years after Fei Fei’s Mother passes away, her Father has met someone new. Fei Fei can’t understand why her Father no longer loves her Mother, and so she travels to the moon in order to find the Moon Goddess to prove to her Father that love is eternal.

My Thoughts: If you thought only Disney Pixar can make animated musicals with the power to make you cry as hard as you laugh, then think again. Netflix is here to surprise you! I’ve always loved animated movies but avoided Over the Moon when it was released last month because I heard it was all about how a young girl deals with grief and ugh, can anyone in 2020 handle their emotions? Because I sure can’t. I couldn’t stay away forever though and I’m so glad I finally gave it a try. This is such a beautiful movie from its storytelling to its visuals. If this isn’t an Oscar contender I will RIOT.

Very much like Inside Out (2015), the movie tackles such a difficult theme but does so in a beautiful way. As an adult watching, I know that Fei Fei’s Father will never stop loving her Mother, but I also understand that Fei Fei can’t see that. For all she knows, this new woman in his life is completely replacing her Mother, and taking away their family traditions at the same time. She’s also lumped with the prospect of an irritating younger brother, who, bless him, handles everything with the tenacity that only 8 year olds can.

Whilst not all the songs are completely memorable, they fit the scenes perfectly and one in particular made me ugly cry into my lunch. It’s an emotional ride but it’s also such a fun adventure as the soon-to-be siblings explore the moon together in order to find the object that the Moon Goddess is seeking. One of those stellar family movies that the adults can enjoy as much as the little ones. Also – I won’t pretend to know anything about Chinese culture but from what I’ve read, it’s represented excellently here and that sounds like a win to me. I’d say that if you enjoyed Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), you’ll enjoy this too.

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Best Bit: I have two words for you. PHILLIPA. SOO. Hands down the absolute star of 2020 for sure. From the tenacious Eliza Hamilton in…Hamilton (2020) to the lesbian goddess Nadine in The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020) to an ACTUAL Moon Goddess in Over the Moon (2020), she is simply incredible. And whilst we may only hear her voice in this movie, she sings the catchiest song by far.

Worst Bit: Maybe the child in me was siding too hard with Fei Fei, but I can’t help but feel like the Father’s new relationship could have been handled better. Yes, it was important to see Fei Fei adopt some of her future Step-Mother’s traditions, but surely they could have incorporated more of their original family traditions too? I’m being brat I think…

Fun Trivia: Audrey Wells’ final written movie before her death in 2018, the film will also be dedicated in loving memory of her.

My Rating: 4 and a half magical moon cakes…nope, still can’t think about that song without crying everywhere…

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