Stop me if you've heard this one before: There's an orphaned kid who must go on a quest to collect magic objects to bring the dead relative back to life. Along the way, there will be friends and enemies and a betrayal. There is a primary adorable creature and several secondary adorable creatures. There will also be a human that turns into an adorable creature. All of this will be told with dazzling animation.
Yes, the most recent version of the Disney template has been applied to Raya and the Last Dragon, which explores Asian cultures. Yes, just like Coco did for Latin American cultures and Brave did for Scottish culture. To be clear: Raya isn't bad, but at this point the story has gotten stale. And new improvements in animation are barely enough to make up for Disney repeating itself yet again.
Kelly Marie Tran voices the titular heroine. With the dragon kingdom in ruins and divided into five warring factions, she's set out to reclaim the fragments of the gem that contained the last of the dragon magic. With each faction holding a small bit of the power, it's just enough to keep the Druun – a faceless purple blob – from destroying everything in its path. Together, of course, the gem could provide enough protection for the entire kingdom.
There's a good and timely lesson here about nations putting aside their distrust and lust for power for the common good. But the movie is far more interested in impressive sword fights, and keeps undercutting this message by having our heroine frequently encounter people from other countries who aren't trustworthy.
Raya and the Last Dragon certainly looks amazing and is often entertaining. But it's so similar to pretty much everything Disney has put out in the last decade that it feels awfully repetitive. The first South Asian Disney Princess deserves more than playing out the same story.