Linda Cook review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ should be first on your list

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Families, animation fans, and audiences who enjoy uplifting stories will want to make “Raya and the Last Dragon” first on their list.

This beautiful Disney picture is about friendship, forgiveness and the importance of standing united.

Raya (voice of Kellie Marie Tran) is the young woman warrior who, essentially, must save the world.

She talks about a beautiful world, 500 years before, named Kumandra, where people and dragons coexisted.

A kind of plague/monster called the Druun invaded the region, and turned both people and dragons – all but one – into stone.

The dragon Sisu, who used a magic Dragon Gem to survive, disappeared.

Raya, at the beginning of the story, is a young princess-in-training to guard the Dragon Gem, hidden away in her home area called Heart (Kumandra is shaped like a dragon, with different regions named for different parts of the dragon.)

Her compassionate father Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) wants the people from the various areas to get together. But such is not to be, even after Raya makes a new friend of Namaari (Gemma Chan.) War ensues, and the Dragon Gem is broken into five pieces while the Druun return.

A few years later, a teenage Raya rides a kind of giant pillbug/armadillo named Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) and roams in search of Sisu. Ray does find the last dragon (voiced impeccably the enjoyable Awkwafina) who may not be as powerful as Raya had hoped.  

The dragon and Raya search for the pieces of the Dragon Gem. Along the way they a boy who is the captain of a ship, a scary-looking but gentle warrior (Benedict Wong) and a baby (Thalia Tran) who is up to mischief and deceit.

The look of the movie is breathtaking, with gorgeous animation and colors. The characters learn from each other and grow in a plot that doesn’t talk down to young viewers, who will appreciate its themes of family, trust, and lots of comedy sprinkled throughout.

It’s intelligent, and has a heart – the kind of film family fare should be.

3 stars

Rated: PG for violence and disturbing images.

Running time: 108 minutes.

Streaming on Disney+ and playing at Palms 10, Muscatine.

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