Raya and the Last Dragon - B
Rated PG, 108 minutes
The colorful, rousing new animated film "Raya and the Last Dragon" is the studio's 59th film. While its story is flawed, the computer-animated fantasy adventure draws inspiration from its Asian themes and setting.
Long ago, in the world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it's up to a lone warrior, Raya ("The Last Jed's" Kelly Marie Tran) to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good.
The engaging, feel-good "Raya and the Last Dragon" is a solid entry in the Disney vault and is co-directed by "Big Hero 6's" Don Hall and "Blindspotting's" Carlos Lopez Estrada, with a script from author Qui Nguyen and "Crazy Rich Asian's" Adele Lim. The story itself isn't a new one: strong young warrior takes on some monsters to save the world, and there are too many characters to keep track of, but is still worth your time.
In spite of that, Raya can still rightfully take her place alongside other Disney heroines, from Belle to Moana to Elsa. Raya is voiced with warmth, strength and appeal from Tran as well as other well-known actors, most memorable from Awkwafina ("The Farewell") providing some well-placed humor as a goofy dragon who provides assistance to Raya, as well as Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh and Gemma Chan in an assortment of roles.
Speaking of which, there are too many non-essential characters in Raya's circle, 3 or 4 of which don't really help the narrative, except to provide comedic misadventure and add a little padding to the thin storyline, and the film is probably about 15 minutes too long. Still, Tran's Raya is the film's heart and soul and is an engaging guide through the ups and downs of saving the kingdom.
"Raya and the Last Dragon" is also helped by lush visuals and a handsome score from prolific composer James Newton Howard ("The Dark Knight"). "Raya" is an enjoyable ride and will please the young set its most intended for. It opens simultaneously in theaters and on Disney plus, and features a fun new Disney short, "Us Again." Definitely worth a look.