In the gripping animated film “Wish Dragon”, a teenager comes into possession of a magical teapot containing a weary dragon of the world who is forced to grant him three wishes.
The film is aimed at children, but for anyone old enough to remember the Disney Renaissance, there should be a deja vu warning: Netflix’s latest animation effort is essentially Disney’s “Aladdin” transposed to Shanghai. . John Cho, who voices Long, the Dragon, makes his best impression of Robin Williams, who lent his voice to the quick genius in the 1992 Disney animation. But without the catchy songs and intergenerational appeal, this movie can only do. wish to live up to this classic.
When the story begins, Din (Jimmy Wong) is a funky, imaginative kid who befriends Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), another troublemaker at school. The couple are shown frolicking in a best friend montage that comes to a screeching halt when Li Na’s father kicks her out of their humble neighborhood, saying, “We’re leaving for a better life, and we have to leave this- this behind. “
Fast forward a decade: A posh Li Na appears on city billboards, while Din lives in the same cramped apartment with his mother (Constance Wu) and works as a food delivery boy, all while aspiring to win back. his partner in delinquency. If only a magical dragon could help Din make his way through Li Na’s wealthy circle.
Here the film becomes a complete folk tale. There are moments, like when Long’s voice becomes squeaky as he retreats into his tiny teapot space, seem to explicitly quote “Aladdin,” not to mention the flight date Din and Li Na have on a flying dragon.
The biggest break in formula comes from Long, the wish-granter. Unlike the Genie, Long has a compelling human history and follows a defined character arc. In the absence of a dazzling production number akin to “Friend Like Me”, endowing the dragon with some emotional depth is the least this film, directed by Chris Appelhans, can do. “Wish Dragon” is a transport experience, but it’s far from a whole new world.
Classified PG. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Netflix.