The kids will love this latest addition to the huge Disney storehouse of princess movies. This makes number 14 on the tally of Disney princess movies or number 20 if we include the often very watchable live-action versions of the same tales. “Raya and the Last Dragon” is a pip.
The mythical, magical land of Kumandra has all kinds of Southeast Asian flavors. The moviemakers wondered around Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other nearby nations to get a feel for the culture. Throw in evil spirits, dragons, and a warrior princess, and here we go.
The cast is a who’s who of famous actors and actresses of Asian background, even if most of them were born in western countries. Now famous “Star Wars” actress Kelly Marie Tran (born in San Diego) plays the voice of Raya. Benedict Wong (English) and Sandra Oh (Canadian) provide their voices. Awkwafina (a New Yorker) and the stunning Gemma Chan (English) also serve. These two last also worked together on the recent and wonderful “Crazy Rich Asians.” Alan Tudyk, lately on the clever and fun TV show “Resident Alien” plays the voice of Raya’s steed, or more precisely his noises and grunts. The beast, a sort of pill bug, never speaks.
This grand Disney film will delight the younger set. It swims in the tradition of many other Disney films and will charm its viewers without breaking any new ground. Adults can let the colors and movement wash over their eyeballs while they discover bits and scenes that have been modeled on bits and scenes from such films as “Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Mission Impossible,” “Harry Potter,” and several other famous films.
Audiences have no singing this time, a lack that I regret.
“Raya and the Last Dragon” gets a ringing five tiaras on the special princess movie rating system. Princess movies are such a powerful genre that they must be rated separately from all other movies. A grandpa who has watched “Frozen” 22 times with his granddaughters will explain it to you.
The film runs for one hour and 54 minutes. It of course carries a customary Disney PG rating, suitable for would-be princesses of all ages.
This is one to see with your descendants.