WISH DRAGON (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: Determined teen Din is longing to reconnect with his childhood best friend when he meets a wish-granting dragon that leads him on an adventure a thousand years in the making.
The Western has Aladdin and now the Chinese has their own version of it- Wish Dragon.
Produced by Jackie Chan, Sony Pictures and China’s VFX firm, Base Animation, Wish Dragon in short is a family fun, crowd pleaser. However, expecting it to be on the level of Pixar in terms of storytelling will be a wish of its own.
Din (Jimmy Wong) is a college student who dreams of reuniting with his childhood best friend, Li Na (Natasha Liu). While Din still stays with his mom in a dilapidated community, Li Na has moved on with her life and living lavishly with her businessman father, Mr Wang (Will Yun Lee). Until one day, Din is given a jade teapot by a mysterious old man. Inside the teapot is a trapped dragon named Long (John Cho) who will grant the owner of the teapot three wishes. But Din has no fancy for riches or gold, he just wants to reunite with Li Na to the dismay of the dragon spirit.
Hot on Din’s heels is Pockets (Aaron Yoo) and his two henchmen. Hired by a businessman to retrieve the wish-granting teapot, the evil kung fu expert Pockets is determined to get hold of the teapot. The question is will there be a happy reunion in the end?
To be fair, there are plenty of decent gags and well-meaning messages in the entire affair. The dragon is a cynical, shrimp crackers loving creature with a sad past. Din is a kind-hearted boy. Pure and true to himself. Add these two characters together, you get a rousing mindless time. Notably, there’s a playful sequence involving lion dancing and dragon dancing. And probably due to Jackie Chan’s influence, there’s a nice balance of kung fu fighting and magic on display.
What’s truly lacking is the character development of Li Na. What causes her to forget her childhood playmate and best friend? Riches, fame, her desire to please her father? This part of the storyline is clearly glanced over in favour of a rushed happy ending. Even Long’s run in with a deity is negligible although there’s a strong desire to see more of that.
The story of Wish Dragon is not on the level of a classic liked Aladdin for sure. Consider there are much worse animations out there, this one is a middling outing that has a lovable creature and positive messages. Forgettable but loads of enjoyable fun.
Review by Linus Tee