Many would see this movie as a "copy" of Aladdin with hints of Dragon Ball elements (like a wishing dragon and a funny oldman character), however, the brilliancy of this movie is that not only does it acknowledge these similarities even though the story was possibly inspired by an old chinese fable more than the actual 1992 classic; but its refreshing and hilarious take on it makes for a completely new and amazing story worth telling. Yet nobody seems to be talking about it....
Sure, it's only been released a couple of days ago but in this day and age, there's always some mention of it (if only in meme format..). Yet, I've scoured the internet.. too little for such a great movie that I hope doesn't fall under the radar like other animation masterpieces out there. Anyways, here's my review:
We have seen over and over again the tropes of classism in romantic movies, however, none of them featured such a modern take on them (one we could relate to it so much and with the new backdrop of China's modern culture) and a modern development of a culture like in this one. We go from almost rural Shanghai to super metropolis Shanghai with a leap in technology that allows for many funny scenes and interactions between some of the "out-of-date" characters. Not to mention the spot-on screenplay with witty, perfectly timed dialogue.
The layers the story displays make the movie so much more enriching and lends for a lot of more rewatches. The subtleties found in the animation and story elements makes the film so fulfilling and enjoyable. And the fact it takes all the similarities with other franchises or media in such a light-hearted and amusing way makes it so much better. If they had ignored or not addressed the current similarities everyone would have reacted more negatively, accusing it of being a rip-off of other works.
The modern insertions to a pretty ancient-inspired story makes it so much more realised and blend in so smoothly I had no cringing moments of social-media-referencing or other modern elements that could be a bit on the nose.
I have more to say but it'd get into spoilers or possibly reveal elements that, at least when I saw it, were unknown to me. I just want to reiterate that the Chinese backdrop, spanning several settings of China (rural to urban) was very well realised in the animation and felt whimsical and, at times, soothing. Like Studio Ghibli's portrayal of rural and urban Japan (food included, very mouth-watering). And this takes me to the animation, which I would give a 10/10 is just that the removal of spines and any bone in the humans that is so characteristic of Sony Animation feels a bit off-putting, as for the rest: great action sequences, humor, expressions, textures and lighting. 9/10, which is still prety good, is just that I don't share this "cartoonized take" on animation, I appreciate it and see the value of having a different style from Disney's and Pixar's, but, at least in 3D animation it's still a little wonky to me. (Had the same complain with Hotel Transilvania)
IN CONCLUSION, the story, the dialogue, the action, the humor, the characters (ALL of them), the romance, the Dragon... There's not a weak aspect in my eyes. I don't know if it's because I enjoyed it so much this first time but, I think even though it features so many well-known plot elements: modern take on classism, the be-careful-what-you-wish for, the greed's redemption, friendship and innocent love; all these slice-of-life themes that feel like we haven't seen in its "purest form" in a while, they return in this well-realised Chinese-angle-themed refreshing story that opens the eyes and the culture to the rest of the world. Themes that will never get old as they govern our everyday lives, sure there aren't any wishing dragons but we all wish we had a friend like him... ;)
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