By Jennifer Green,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
China-set animated comedy has great messages, some scares.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids can certainly gather some information about some aspects of Chinese culture and lifestyle and/or see their own traditions and culture reflected in aspects of this film, which is set in Shanghai.
Friendship is earned. Wealth and fame don't necessarily bring happiness. Selfless behavior is rewarded. People should have faith in humanity. There's value in maintaining traditions as modernity encroaches.
Positive Role Models
Characters from modest families are seen as close-knit, supported, and cared for by each other and their neighbors. Wealthy characters are depicted as lonely and forced to conduct shady business or work they're not interested in. Din is given the teapot because he’s pure of heart. He demonstrates humility in believing his character is more important than his standing and compassion for others. He puts his own interests second. He also skips school and tells little white lies to his mother. Other characters sacrifice family and compassion in their pursuit of power and riches.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of animated fights, falls, and accidents. Characters fall from great heights and are plunged into a river. Characters die and are brought back to life. Three bad guys chase Din, fight with him on the street, on rooftops, and in a moving car. They kick and injure others. A bike messenger weaves in and out of traffic. Two kids cry over a dead chicken… while eating chicken legs, which we find out later are from the dead chicken. A melancholy flashback tells the tale of a man who wasted his life on the pursuit of power and died alone. Gag involving someone drinking out of a toilet.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman flirts with the dragon, posing as a man, on the dance floor at a party. When his tail pops out of his suit and slaps her on the hip, she says she doesn't usually move that fast but kisses him anyway. She continues chasing and flirting with him. Din and Li Na hold hands.
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"Crap," "jeez," "shut up," "stupid," "creep," "twerp," "simpleton," "dumb, "dirt bag," "God."
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Products & Purchases
The neighbors remind Din that college can lead to a good job and a "big paycheck." Li Na models for Piaget. She says her dad insists on "only the best."
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine and champagne at a party. Din's mom suspects he's drinking or taking drugs when he begins acting strangely.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wish Dragon is an animated movie produced by Jackie Chan and set in China that has positive messages about valuing what's really important in life. There's also some violence that could frighten or disturb very young viewers. Animated characters fall from great heights and plunge into a river. Characters die and are brought back to life. There are chases and fights, and people are kicked, thrown off rooftops, and more. A melancholy flashback tells the tale of a man who wasted his life on the pursuit of power, then died alone. The story contrasts close-knit families from modest backgrounds to wealthy, powerful families whose members are lonely or forced to do unfulfilling work. The lesson is that friendship, human connection, and selfless service to others are what give meaning to life, rather than fame or great wealth. The main character embodies both humility and compassion, but he also skips school and tells little lies to his mother. Kids may learn about Chinese culture and lifestyle and/or see their own traditions and culture reflected in aspects of this film. Language is limited to "crap," "jeez," "shut up," and childish insults. There's a gag involving someone drinking out of a toilet and another in which kids eat the legs of their dearly departed pet chicken. In one party scene, adults drink wine and champagne, and a woman flirts with a man and kisses him when he slaps her on the hip.
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Based on 19 parent reviews
Cute Family Night Movie
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Great family movie!
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What's the Story?
Din (voiced by Jimmy Wong) and Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) are best friends from childhood in WISH DRAGON. When Li Na's father moves his family away from their working-class neighborhood seeking a brighter future, Li Na and Din lose touch. But both grow up feeling something is missing in their life, and Din vows to find Li Na again and reconnect. When he's given a teapot from a mysterious old man, Din finds himself the new master of a dragon, Long Zhu (John Cho), who can grant him three wishes. He's also suddenly being chased by three henchmen out to get the teapot. While Din avoids the bad guys and keeps his secret from his protective mother (Constance Wu), he connects with Li Na and tries to figure out the best use of his wishes for those he loves. Meanwhile, Long also begins to learn about the value of family, friendship, and selfless service to others.
Is It Any Good?
Charming characters, attractive settings, and universal messages balance a familiar storyline inspired by the same Chinese fable as Aladdin in this enjoyable animated film. Wish Dragon is propelled by the sweet relationship between its two main characters -- kind, generous 19-year-old college student Din, who has his whole life ahead of him, and cynical, sarcastic Long, who has already lived thousands of years. The film's illustrated Shanghai setting provides a lot to look at. Characteristic "shikumen" dwellings are overshadowed by a city shown growing up across the river as if in a time-lapse video. As Din flies around on Long's back, they weave through towers and clouds, soaring high above stalled traffic and interlaced bridges. An emotional sequence where the normally humorous Long recalls his sad life on earth is sketched in translucent outlines.
That scene, and a climax involving several deadly fights for the teapot and control of the magic dragon, are a bit darker than the rest of this fun, light, and positive story. Some viewers might have wished for a little less action, though the film's makers suggest some of the kung fu fight scenes were made in tribute to producer Jackie Chan. There's humor sketched into the art, like when Din is kicked out of a fancy clothing store called "Nomani" and goes to another called "Nomoney." The action has similar fun asides, like when Din falls from a rooftop and lands on a toilet, then kindly stops to put the seat down before moving on, or the goofy way one of the henchmen never takes his hands out of his pockets and does everything with his legs and feet. A running joke involves Long discovering modern-day contraptions like a cell phone, airplanes, TV sets, traffic, and delicious but shrimp-free shrimp chips. These are all part of the charm, and the blending of tradition and modernity, in Wish Dragon.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the concept of a genie in a bottle that grants three wishes, like Long in Wish Dragon. Have you seen this idea in other movies or books? Which ones? The inspiration comes from a Chinese fable. Where could you find out more about this fable?
If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for, and why?
Din puts others' interests above his own and embodies humility and compassion. Why are these important character strengths?
What aspects of Chinese culture did you notice most in this film?
- On DVD or streaming: June 11, 2021
- Cast: Jimmy Wong, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, John Cho
- Director: Chris Appelhans
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Humility
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Mild action, rude humor
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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