Wish Dragon is a 2021 Chinese-American computer-animated fantasy comedy film that looks like an Aladdin knockoff but with an exciting twist to it. The director, Chris Appenlhans, and producers Aaron Warner, Chris Bremble, and Jackie Chan have done justice for animation lovers. This Netflix animated film combines all the elements of an intriguing watch for the entire family. It starts with the rags-to-riches Aladdin theme, then transforms the story to modern-day Shanghai. With Jackie Chan among the producers, you can imagine the comedy and the action! There are numerous superfluous chase and fight scenes in the film, thanks to the villainous characters.
Released theatrically in China on January 15th and Netflix internationally on June 11th, the movie has received mixed to positive reviews from critics and fans. It has been both favorable and unfavorably compared to Disney’s Aladdin. The plot revolves around a determined teen Din who longs to reunite with his childhood best friend when he comes across a wish-granting dragon who shows him the magic of possibilities. Din has big dreams but limited means, and Long, the Wish dragon, steps in to help him grow and realize his dreams. Long is the life of the film and is a cynical, hilarious, and mighty dragon who ventures into the adventure of modern-day Shanghai in pursuit of Lina, a Long-lost childhood friend. The adventure compels them to answer some of life’s biggest questions since when you can wish for anything and get it, you have to know what really matters.
Visually, the film paints a cartoony sheen onto modern-day Shanghai to depict the differences between the super-wealthy and everyone else. In one instance, when Din asks for a wish to be rich to impress Lina and be respected, the story’s central theme reveals itself. Long tells Din that in life, he was a powerful and wealthy lord whose reign ended in tragedy and loneliness, and that’s why he was punished to become a wishing dragon. The adage, “The rich also cry,” comes out perfectly showing that simple things matter in life. The goons also want to steal the wishing pot to enrich themselves, but it all ends in tragedy showing that greed never pays.
The jokes in the movie are genuinely funny for both adults and kids. The Wish Dragon exudes a lot of bathroom humor, but there are also hilarious jokes throughout the movie. Long’s character intensely develops, even more than Din, who’s primarily insecure throughout the film. Long grows from a cynic into someone who learns the value of human connections and friendship. This is an excellent lesson in family-friendly films, and its evolution of comic relief gives the movie an intriguing edge.
Overall, the movie goes beyond the predictable aspects and brings out well-worn fairytale plot elements in a new setting, giving it relevance and resonance.