Wish Dragon Parent Guide
While on the surface this looks like a Chinese remake of Aladdin, this movie takes a deeper look at non-monetary sources of meaning and happiness.
Parent Movie Review
A decade ago, nine-year-old Din (Jimmy Wong) and Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) were inseparable best friends, until Li Na had to move away, and they lost touch with each other. Now 19, Din is determined to reconnect with Li Na and rekindle their friendship. The problem? Li Na is now rich and famous, while Din is neither of those things. Out on his job as a delivery boy, Din stumbles across a magic teapot containing a wish dragon named Long Zhu (John Cho), who offers Din three wishes, which might just be the solution to all his problems.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: this story is very similar to Aladdin. Many of the reviews I’ve seen are already calling Wish Dragon “Chinese Aladdin”. Although it is true that the two movies share a lot of plot similarities, I think that immediately putting Wish Dragon into that box ignores and devaluates all that it is doing outside of that comparison. This film takes the basic premise of three wishes and brings it into modern times, leaning more heavily into messages of selflessness and finding happiness outside of wealth. Long is also given a much more compelling and detailed back story than the Aladdin’s Genie ever was, which makes him a more relatable and well-rounded character.
There’s a lot to laud in this movie, but I’ll start with the voice cast. John Cho in particular shines as Long, bringing humor and pathos to a role that grows and changes in believable ways. Jimmy Wong is a believable and earnest protagonist and the many supporting characters are all unique and breathe life into this imagined world. The animation is well done, though not groundbreaking in any way, but I appreciate the obviously high production value.
Wish Dragon is an overall great production, but one of its best features is in its messaging. Throughout their adventure, the characters explore what true happiness is and how it relates to money and power. There are also messages about community and friendship and how the most important things in life can’t be bought. I don’t think the writers ever get too preachy on the subject. Instead, it feels organic to the story and to the characters. Alongside these important themes, the writing is legitimately funny, with some great jokes about modern life and the ridiculousness of rich people.
All things considered; you’re not going to get a much safer family movie these days. Yes, there’s a fair amount of kung fu fighting, but it’s so cartoony in style that it never feels terribly violent. There’s a scene with some adults drinking at a party, which results in a minor sexual joke, but I think that will go over most kids’ heads. If you’ve been wishing for a fantastic film with great messages that the whole family can enjoy, Wish Dragon can grant you that.Directed by Chris Appelhans. Starring John Cho, Jimmy Wong, Natasha Liu Bordizzo. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release June 11, 2021. Updated October 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Wish Dragon
Rating & Content Info
Why is Wish Dragon rated PG? Wish Dragon is rated PG by the MPAA for mild action and rude humor
Violence: Slapstick violence throughout. Martial arts style fights happen multiple times, including punches, kicks, and slaps. Having kung fu skills is a major plot point. A man falls off a building and is injured. A brief mention of a gun, but no guns are present in the film.
Sexual Content: A dragon’s tail accidently hits a woman’s butt, and she giggles and kisses him.
Profanity: Some minor insults such as stupid, jerk, and twerp. Three uses of a term of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink wine and champagne at a party. A man is wrongly accused of having a drinking problem.
Page last updated October 2, 2021
Wish Dragon Parents' Guide
Why is Long always telling Din to wish for piles of gold? What does Long need to do and learn before he can move on to the next life?
What does Din value most in his life? How do those values guide him in his decisions? What do you value the most? What would you wish for if you were in Din’s situation?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Young kids will enjoy the bright pictures and imaginative wishes in L.W. Abela’s series, I Wish I Was a Mermaid, I Wish I Was a Monkey, and I Wish I Was an Alien.
In E. Nesbitt’s Five Children and It, siblings discover an ancient Sand-Fairy who grants them one wish a day. But not all wishes turn out as well as the kids expect.
Jeff Brown’s Stanley and the Magic Lamp has the young protagonist release a genie from a teapot. The genie grants Stanley’s wish for fame, but maybe it’s not as great as Stanley expected it would be.
In The Wishmakers and The Wishbreakers, Ace inadvertently releases a genie from a jar of peanut butter. Now the two of them have to save the world.
In Lauren Myracle’s imaginary town of Willow Hill, 13 year old girls get to make three wishes and this series follows what happens when they do. The three books are Wishing Day, The Forgetting Spell, and The Backward Season.
When Lass rescues a white reindeer, she’s given a wish. Her request is small, but it turns out to have powerful results in Jessica Day George’s Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.
Related home video titles:
A magical dragon helps to save the day in Raya and the Last Dragon.
Four Kids and It follows the adventures of four kids and the wish-granting Psammaed they meet on a deserted beach.
When a discouraged middle-aged dad wishes he could return to the happier days of his youth, he suddenly becomes 17 Again.