Wish Dragon [Grade: B+]

Director: Chris Appelhans

Story By: Chris Appelhans

Cast: John Cho, Jimmy Wong, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, & Constance Wu

* * *

Sooooo… the first time I turned this film on, I didn’t last the first 10-15 minutes or so BECAUSE of the dragon’s introduction offering “carriages” in an animated film clearly set in present day—I assumed that the writers had it all wrong, and wasn’t going to give it any more of my time. Needless to say, I turned it off and found something else to watch. 

But then another day came where I was working from home, and just wanted some background noise, so I returned to it…and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be a really cute film. 

* * *

Below are my grades for key components in #InTheHeights that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. 

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.

* * *

Theme: A

Plot & Story: A-

Pacing: B

Character Arc/Development: B

General Entertainment Factor: Interesting Enough

Film Enthusiast Entertainment Factor: Interesting Enough

* * *

TAKEAWAYS:

1. First and foremost, shout out to the animation! It was extremely beautiful and just done really well. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

2. Maybe it was just me, but I was really drawn to the eyes of the protagonist, Din. They really added another layer to tracking his character development. 🤔👍🏾

3. There was no secret that the messaging of this film focused on “friendship,” “embracing one’s self,” and that old adage (of sorts) about “not keeping up with the Jones’.” 

The film did a great job getting this message across from the very start of the film—at least the “friendship” and “embracing one’s self” part of the theme. “Not keeping up with the Jones’” is the aspect of the theme that was merged in really well starting in the 2nd Act. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

4. I really enjoyed Long and Din together. They were so hilarious, ESPECIALLY once Long caught up with the times. 

5. The villains… … eh…they had a moment that was funny, but as a group I wasn’t as impressed with them, and I think it was because of their sudden introduction.👀

6. The story was really cute—friends founded on an outcasted commonality, that was assumed to have experienced a large crack/disconnect due to a family opportunity causing the friends to split up, until a moment years later provides a way to possibly get things back to how they used to be. I found the strength of the story to be in Acts 2 and 3. 👍🏾👍🏾

7. To piggyback on point #5, the main antagonist—Pockets—was possibly the most interesting of the villain-bunch (which makes sense)…it was “the leg” for me! 😂

8. Um, let’s celebrate the entire cast being Asian! Yeeessssssss! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

9. Pacing was a bit of a problem for me, specifically in the early foundation setting of the film/exposition. In Act 1 there was so much focus on displaying the friendship, and not enough focus on getting us to really understand Li Na and her family (which is a very important foundation to the story). Additionally, as mentioned with the villains, they just “popped up.” I was left wondering, “how did they even know?” and “How did ‘they’ know ‘him’?” I was also a little annoyed with the Dragon being so blatantly foreign to the present. YES we do eventually catch Dragon up, BUT I felt there could’ve been a different way to introduce the dragon without even hinting that he was out of touch (especially considering the films similar vibes to Aladdin). 👀

10. To piggyback off point #6, my only issue with the story had to do with Din’s sudden anger in Act 3. That anger felt like a shift from the theme because what he was upset about wasn’t what he wanted at all. Hell, even our first look at Din in Act 1 wasn’t about him seeking/wanting what he voices out of anger in Act 3. It also doesn’t support “who” he reaches out to on the bus to help him. 🥴🤦🏾‍♂️

11. I enjoyed Long’s backstory, and it’s connection to how the film starts. 👍🏾

12. I also liked how the film stayed consistent with subtle decisions made by characters, like Din’s first wish. 👍🏾

13. Din’s character development is pretty decent for the most part. However, the issue is with his sudden anger in Act 3 which doesn’t truly align to what he desired in Act 1 (or throughout the film for that matter). That small shift for the sake of tension impacted Din’s entire development for me. Additionally, the lack of background on Li Na’s family (especially considering that she everything about her family said that they shouldn’t have been neighbors anyway… …) felt like a missed opportunity to give Din’s character more depth.🤔🤷🏾‍♂️

* * *

Overall, Wish Dragon is Aladdin-meets Cinderella-meets Cindy Pon’s novel Want. Act 1 is a little rushed and not as intentionally flushed out as I would like, but this doesn’t hold the film back from being a cute and beautifully animated film in the end.

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