A reworking of Aladdin set in modern day China, Wish Dragon is a colourful, fun CG-animation that has buckets of charm and plenty of anarchic humour.
Din pines after his childhood best friend Li Na, who moved away from their working class neighbourhood a decade ago and became wealthy. Stuck in a rut but determined to reconnect with Li Na, Din stumbles upon a teapot containing a Genie-esque Wish Dragon who will grant him three wishes – with limitations – but even armed with these, will it be enough to rekindle his lost friendship?
It’s a cute film with charmingly expressive animation; human characters have long, elastic limbs and move with lightning speed at times, especially during the hilarious and well choreographed fight scenes. It’s beautifully colourful too, with wonderful blue skies and a great sense of time and place in the environments. The real star of the show is the John Cho-voiced Long, the Wish Dragon himself, whose gorgeous colours really pop – and his animation, with him cartoonishly, expressively reacting to situations and slithering in different shapes at often dizzying speed provides many of the film’s visual highlights.
It’s a generally quite low key story and it’s good to see a tale about a strong, platonic bond between friends; it all feels very wholesome. The dragon is fairly Robin-Williams-Genie-esque, with his wisecracking and general hyperactive nature, though thankfully he is missing the cringeworthy pop culture referencing.
An oddly dark subplot with some gangsters chasing Din in pursuit of the dragon is somehow made to work and there’s even some genuinely great humour wrung from the interaction between the mismatched bad guys.
There’s a lot of heart in Wish Dragon and it never feels manipulative in the way that many kids movies can often be guilty of; the urban Chinese setting also gives the film a nicely different visual feel to the norm too.
It’s not an unmissable masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but Wish Dragon is a genuinely fun, heartfelt film that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Wish Dragon is available to stream on Netflix now.
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