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Wish Dragon (2021) Film Review


Directed by: #ChrisAppelhans


Optimistic and determined teen, Din (Wong), longs to reconnect with his childhood best friend when he meets a wish-granting dragon, Long (Cho), who shows him the magic of possibilities.

Wish Dragon (2021) is an American-Chinese co-production from Sony Pictures Animation, the studio which gifted us with the spectacular Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). It is a computer-animated family friendly adventure comedy/fantasy, theatrically released in China on January 15th and internationally via Netflix on June 11th. Director Chris Appelhans is best known for his work on other animated films such as Coraline (2009), Rise of the Guardians (2012) and The Princess and the Frog (2009).

Din meets the wish dragon
Wish Dragon (2021) film poster

The film exhibits slick, snappy and colourful animation with some appealing character designs for the good hearted Din, his beautiful distant friend Li Na (Bordizzo) and the dynamic Long. The backgrounds are quite simplistic and don’t offer anything new, but fit the quirky tone well. The overall concept is very familiar, with many viewers comparing the wish dragon to Robin Williams’ eccentric genie in the much beloved Aladdin (1992) and the energetic, whimsical presentation is too similar not to notice. However, the film takes a modern twist with a focus on the rich/poor class divide which is handled well for young viewers to understand.

The plot is rather muddled and unfocused, with a redundant villain who does have a fun overexaggerated evil design, but a simple motive of getting the magical tea pot containing the wish dragon from Din. The film works best when it is focusing on the warm platonic relationship between Din and Li Na, which makes an endearing and refreshing change to not overstate their friendship as leading to a possible romantic relationship in the future. It is subtly hinted at occasionally, but it is not the main goal of the lead, as he only wants to meet his childhood best friend again after her father moved them away from poverty to a better life.

Although quite predictable and generic, the film does teach an important lesson for children about the value of family and friendship over power and wealth, which does lead to some nice development for Long, who used to be a privileged prince and was turned into a wish dragon to learn about the inherent goodness in human beings. John Cho, most well known for his role as Sulu in the reboot Star Trek film franchise (2009-), gives Long an authentically regal yet playful quality, which does often seem like a lesser version of the genie from Aladdin, but is an admirable performance in its own right.

Overall, Wish Dragon is perfect harmless fun for the whole family with a few good laughs, mostly in part to its polished animation and decent message, but it might have benefitted from a deeper focus on the more profound, heartfelt elements of its jumbled story.


Wish Dragon (2021) Trailer:


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