When it comes to animated films, I remember hearing about and waiting to see "Wish Dragon" for a long time. Ever since I saw the concept art for the film a few years ago, I remember being hooked just by the idea of a rehashed "Aladdin" featuring a dragon from Sony Pictures Animation. The idea sounded like a lot of fun and the concept art for the film looked gorgeous. Now that it's finally out on Netflix after a long wait, I can say the film met my expectations and delighted me from start to finish. It certainly isn't a perfect animated film and it does have flaws that do hold it back slightly, but this film had so many delightful moments and a sweet sense of charm that it was hard to resist.
A nineteen-year-old boy named Din (Jimmy Wong) has been living with his mother in an unwealthy section of a big city. Ten years ago, he was best friends with a young girl named Lina (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) though she moved away once her father became very wealthy and wanted to give the best for his daughter. One day, Din receives a green teapot from a crazy old man and soon discovers that the teapot magical and contains a dragon named Long (John Cho) who tells him he's a wishing dragon who can grant him three wishes. Hoping to reunite with his old friend, Din sets off with Long to reunite with Lina not knowing that three goons are after the magic teapot and the wishing dragon.
Going into this film, I was hoping to get a fun and sweet animated tale and it gave me exactly what I expected. Once again, it continues to show Sony Pictures Animation's growth and continuing the comeback streak they've been on since 2018. As I said at the beginning of the film, the story is indeed a rehash of "Aladdin" with an Asian twist to it. The film does have a clunky opening and takes a while to get going, though once Long appeared the film picked up steam and had a fun charm that lasted throughout the entire film. The film will obviously be compared a lot to Disney Animation's own version of "Aladdin" and personally, I think that would be rather foolish and instead should be seen as a new version of a tale of a boy getting a magic lamp and being granted three wishes. The film does take a slightly different path once Din eventually reunites with Lina and I applaud the filmmakers for going in that direction. It all builds to a fun animated climax and a satisfying ending while having a message I think will resonate among children and adults. I also think the humor has some moments even though there are a couple of moments where it didn't work entirely for me. I think most of the humor comes from the character of Long who has a lot of delightful chuckles including one moment where Din is trying to explain why Lina is important and he is just not having any of it. I'll talk about him more in a bit, but needless to say, he got some big laughs from me. As far as the animation goes, it's very good. This film has a lot of bright colors and has a more relaxed cell-shaded vibe rather than going for realistic visuals and I really loved that. It gave the film a cartoony vibe that I enjoyed looking at and it led way for some memorable set pieces including a scene with a Chinese parade. The character animation also has a lot of fast energy and rhythm that never lets up and it made way for some eye-catching moments. I always love seeing some great fast-paced animation and this film delivers. As far as the characters go, most of them are okay. I think Din and Lina are fine protagonists. They aren't anything outstanding, but I think they nicely serve the purpose of the narrative and I like that they break away from some character cliches that are typical of this kind of story. The antagonists were alright too with their only goal being to get the teapot that does have a clear motivation at first and their conflicts with Din are well executed. However, there was one character who easily stole the show and made this film for me and that was the titular wish dragon, Long. Once he appeared on screen, the film utilized his moments at every turn and it was just fun to see. John Cho is terrific as the character as he's very sarcastic, energetic, and somewhat bored with his job yet never annoying and too much to handle and his character animation is so playful and filled with boisterous energy that it's hard to take your eyes off of him. He's also the character who undergoes the most growth and development and it made him feel more fleshed and honest. If anything, he stole the show for this film and I enjoyed watching him interact with Din and the city he lives in.
With that said, "Wish Dragon" was a delightful animated film that was a treat to watch. The story is a nice rehash of "Aladdin" with its own twists and turns, the animation was colorful and filled with so much life, and the characters were fun with the character of Long stealing the show. This is another delightful film from Sony Pictures Animation and I recommend giving it a watch. It's not anything large or spectacular, but for those wishing for a nice and simple animated film, this will do just the trick.