We Review: Wish Dragon

Netflix has once again gifted us with an animated film that features China and Chinese culture. Wish Dragon is set in modern day China. It starts with us flying through the clouds and being faced with giant dragon gates that deny us entry. A giant man steps in holding a pipa, aka a Chinese lute and as he plays his song we are transported to a classroom of children being taught to write ‘龙’ which means ‘dragon’ in chinese.

A boy named Dun is sent out into the hallway because he drew an actual dragon and as he sits on a bench, a girl named Li Na from another classroom stomps out and takes a seat. They discover she has also drawn a dragon instead of the word and they quickly strike up a friendship. Being raised by single parents, they become reliant on each other and became beloved by Dun’s mom and Li Na’s dad. However, they are separated by a change in financial status. Ten years later, Dun wants to be reunited with the now affluent Li Na and as he prepares for the reintroduction, he is handed a magic jade tea pot that contains, you guessed it, a Wish Dragon.

While Wish Dragon is essentially a retelling of another Asian tale, Aladdin, it is quite interesting to see how they adjusted the story to fit the modern day Chinese experience. It’s quite enjoyable to be able to relate to the focus of Dun’s mom on his education and his nosy but well-meaning neighbors’ pride and hopes for Dun, who is essentially the good kid on the block. Seeing the auntie who always has something snarky to say without actually meaning to be cruel get shushed in a part of the movie is quite satisfying considering we KNOW there’s a 10 to 1 chance of that happening in real life.

It’s quite a wakeup call to see how hard both parents work to provide the best lives for their children and how different the outcomes can be. While Dun and his mother remain in their cramped apartment, Li Na and her father rose to affluence and a life of luxury. However, we see that while struggling financially, Dun was constantly surrounded by love and people who cared for him, and Li Na misses the company of her father and is constantly surrounded by people who want to use her for business purposes.

Wish Dragon reminds us that while yes, money is necessary and nice to have, family is even better. I think that’s something that the pandemic has reminded us of, as well. Material belongings and possessions are never going to be as important as the relationships you have culminated.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. The story was poignant and heartfelt, and it doesn’t pan out quite the way you think it will. I would sit back and enjoy this film with the entire family to unwind any day of the week.

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