Can’t believe I didn’t review these two big new Disney & Pixar releases right away. Well, I’ll be posting my June Roundup post next week but figured I better give these slightly more than just the mini-reviews in those posts. Here we go…
Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)
Directed by Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada
Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk
Music by James Newton Howard
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.
I was weirdly looking forward to this. Well, maybe that’s not weird? Plenty of middle-aged women love Disney movies. My mom & grandma do too. We grew up with them. I thought this looked really good in the trailer & watched it as soon as it became available as part of the Disney Plus subscription. It’s good. I liked the animation and there were some strong characters & a decent story. Is it as strong as Disney’s very best films? No, but it’s far from the worst and has quite a reputation to live up to if compared to the best. It’s also sadly not nearly good as Moana, which it’s of course going to be compared to the most as that’s also quite recent & was very good. Who cares? It’s still an enjoyable film. And I loved her pet Tuk Tuk! Forget the dragons – I want my own Tuk Tuk!
I’m sure what either does or very much doesn’t work for people watching this is Awkwafina as Sisu the dragon. She’s very “love her or hate her”. Well, luckily I like her (and her vag) just fine so I liked her as the quirky dragon. But I prefer when Disney doesn’t use very obvious voices & over-the-top comedians who can throw you out of the story a bit & make the films less “timeless”. I’m actually not crazy about Robin Williams in Aladdin for this same reason & I liked Williams as an actor & comedian a lot (RIP – I will forever be sad about that). I guess I just like my Disney films to stand the test of time but, hey, I’m old school. Or maybe just old… Oh well – I liked the Awkwafina dragon anyway. And I loved Tuk Tuk, as I said, and of course Raya is yet another great new addition to the “strong female Disney characters” thing so I was happy as they’re really the three main characters we see the most. Oh, and Raya’s dad was kinda hot.
I think this movie unfortunately loses its way in the middle of the film. It started out very strong and the ending was fine (although, come to think of it, I kind of can’t fully remember the ending now!). I feel like I say this in half my reviews lately (I’m old & I’m tired) but I did snooze a little in the middle so could do with watching this again sometime. I liked it enough that I wouldn’t mind a rewatch. I think, mainly, too many additional characters got added along the way and they weren’t that great compared to those I’ve already mentioned. In fact, one was really annoying (the dumb baby). Even my daughter was like “that baby is dumb” so I’m afraid my pickiness about movies is rubbing off on her. (Dumb baby is in the image below). There was also probably a bit too much going on story-wise for any young kids to follow with so many different regions fighting each other and so many characters to keep track of. I feel a little unfair rating this when I know I could do with rewatching it. But the middle bit & the dumb baby did make me lose interest for a while. Maybe I’ll change my mind & up the rating half a point after a rewatch.
My Rating: 7/10
Directed by Enrico Casarosa
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
On the Italian Riviera, an unlikely but strong friendship grows between a human being and a sea monster disguised as a human.
My beloved Pixar! I’m such a big Pixar fan. I think their best movies are among some of the very best movies overall, even compared to non-animated films. And anyone who knows me knows I love to rank movies so, if you really need to know, here’s my Pixar ranking (from my least favorite to my favorite):
22. Cars 2
21. The Good Dinosaur
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
14. Toy Story 4
11. A Bug’s Life
9. The Incredibles
7. Toy Story 3
6. Toy Story 2
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Toy Story
2. Monsters, Inc.
Not seen Cars 3 – Maybe I should watch that…
Okay, I honestly feel really bad about putting Luca last as I thought it was a very sweet & very wholesome film. It was actually so sweet & felt so genuine that I don’t feel right saying anything bad about it. I really did feel like the filmmakers put their hearts into making this & that comes across in the movie. The two boys & the girl they befriended were likeable and watching the movie was… Pleasant? Like, it would be impossible to think mean & nasty thoughts while watching this. It was a nice, peaceful family film.
But I was mostly just bored. And, yes, I fell asleep in the middle of this one too (I did catch up on what I missed later). I’m sorry! I apologise to the filmmakers! Your movie is very sweet and the main three characters are very nice! I complained a bit about Raya having too many characters but I think Luca is missing all the extra “small role” characters that Pixar always do soooo well. Look at how awesome each & every character is in things like Toy Story & Finding Nemo, even down to the ones with very few or even no lines (especially those turtles, dudes!). I wasn’t interested in any of the lesser characters in Luca. Okay, yes – it meant they really got to focus on the main three friends but I’m used to Pixar giving us loads of characters to love in every film. The other characters in Luca were bland other than maybe the weird uncle (I think) who lived very deep in the sea & was nice & weird. Yeah, of course I liked the weird sea monster with no social skills! That’s what this movie needed: More weirdos. It was far too wholesome. I also wasn’t crazy about the animation, which was disappointing as I did like the director’s lovely Pixar short La Luna . This just didn’t look like a Pixar film to me. I guess the style worked better as a short film.
I’ll finish this before I say anything too negative because I don’t think this movie deserves that. It’s certainly not a bad film. Not at all. It’s just not up to Pixar standards. To be fair, I was maybe a little harsh putting it below Cars 2 which I don’t even remember. But, as much as I almost hate those Cars movies, I have to admit those still did a decent job with having more than only three good characters. Sorry. I wanted to like this much more! It did have a lovely message about not hiding your true self so that was nice. (I need to stop saying “nice”)
My Rating: 6/10