Wish Dragon: A Cute Retelling of Aladdin – Netflix Review

A pure-hearted man is given the chance to change his life.

I find it appropriate that this is a Chinese-centric version of the story of Aladdin, along with some elements from the famous Disney animated film, because in the original story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin was actually Chinese. It just happened to be a version of China which seemed to be completely identical to Arabia, including having a Sultan running the area. While apparently the creators of this film denied that they were directly inspired by that story or any of its adaptations, I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence that the main character is named “Din.” (Jimmy Wong).

Great use of imagery in this film.

The main character, Din, is a working class Chinese student who is clearly very intelligent (he does people’s homework for them and aces all of his exams without going to class). He works extra jobs trying to save up money so that he can finally reconnect with his childhood friend Li Na (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). The two grew up together, but Li Na’s father, Mr. Wang (Will Yun Lee), managed to start a business and moved with his daughter to a nicer neighborhood and, eventually, a nicer life. Din’s fortunes change when he is given a tea pot by what appears to be a crazy homeless guy (Ronny Chieng). The pot contains Long (John Cho), the wisecracking and cynical dragon who is bound by magical law to give Din three wishes. Unfortunately, it turns out that other parties are very interested in the teapot, namely the martial arts master Pockets (Aaron Yoo) and his two goons (Bobby Lee; Jimmy O. Yang).  Apparently in Mandarin, Niu Junfeng and Jackie Chan voice Din and Long, respectively. 

Pockets is the one with his hands in his… pants.

This movie isn’t exactly going to be a new experience for most viewers, unless they’re really young, but it has enough solid scenes to make things interesting. Hell, at one point, Long literally grants Din the wish of “turn me into a prince,” just to drive it home (although, amusingly, that turns out not to be what Din wanted). Din is a bit too naive, something that even the other characters call him out for, and he is genuinely not very creative in his use of the lamp. It’s not that I don’t like the “pure of heart” lead, but when Long keeps pointing out that money will solve most of his problems, Din doesn’t seem to even consider it, even though money WOULD probably make it easier to see Li Na… or maybe at least help his mom (Constance Wu) out, since their neighborhood is being demolished. 

Yes, Din tricks Long at one point into giving him a free wish involving traffic.

The best parts of the movie, though, are actually the scenes of Din and Li Na together, because they seem to have genuine chemistry. Aside from that, many of the scenes with Long are pretty entertaining, owing in no small part to John Cho’s ability to come off as a somewhat likable a-hole. 

Genuine sincerity is still a thing that hits you hard when it comes from a cynic.

Overall, not a bad movie for kids. I recommend it for family movie night.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review/Amazon Prime Review/Reader Request – Killing Gunther: It’s A Real Niche Movie

A group of hitmen make a documentary about trying to kill the world’s greatest assassin.

SUMMARY

Blake (Taran Killam) is an assassin who is just starting in his career. He decides that he wants to kill the world’s top killer-for-hire, an enigmatic man named Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger)… who may have banged Blake’s ex-girlfriend Lisa (Cobie Smulders). Blake hires a camera crew to film his efforts and assembles a team of professionals: His explosives expert friend Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), Sanaa (Hannah Simone) who is the daughter of legendary hitman Rahmat (Peter Kalamis), hacker Gabe (Paul Brittain), Blake’s mentor Ashley (Aubrey Sixto), cyborg terrorist Izzat (Amir Talai), poison master Yong (Aaron Yoo), Blake’s ex-partner Max (Steve Bacic), and psychotic murderous twins Mia and Barold Bellakalakova (Allison Tolman and Ryan Gaul). The group quickly finds out that Gunther knows they’re hunting him, and he is set on humiliating him.

Ever wonder what the village people might have looked like if they’d formed in the 90s?

END SUMMARY

So, when I first saw this movie a few years ago, I thought it was an okay film. It had a lot of flaws, to be sure, mostly because the idea was not designed to fill 90 minutes, but I was overall pretty entertained with how ridiculous it was. Then, I saw the critics and other viewers mostly decimate this film. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened that led so many people to despise this movie to the level that they did. Yeah, it’s not the best mockumentary out there, but it avoided some of the issues that style usually has. For example, the main character is keeping the film crew around through threats of violent retribution. Because of that, you never have to ask the question “why are they still filming this?” It’s a simple explanation, but that issue usually bugs me, so I appreciate it. 

Although, some of the footage still seems questionable.

However, as I thought about the movie, I realized that the biggest problem might be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, I admit Arnold plays more of a comedic role in this film than he probably should, but that’s not what I mean. It’s that he’s too big of a star and too big of a draw not to be included in the marketing and promotion for this movie, but he’s only in like 10 minutes of it. The identity of “Gunther” is treated like a surprise twist throughout almost all of the film, so it should be a revelation when Arnold finally gets there. However, on all of the movie posters, Arnold is front and center. I think a lot of people probably resented the fact that it feels like a deception. It’s compounded by the fact that the movie, which was already a little heavy on the slapstick, moves almost straight into insane farce in the third act, giving Gunther abilities that so far surpass reality that it loses its grounding. I still thought it was kind of fun, but I would definitely understand if people thought it just derailed the whole film.

This poster only features a surprise character. Bad marketing.

The “humor,” and it is super niche, mostly revolves around how very incompetent the main team is compared with Gunther, combined with a number of other absurd jokes. For example, Sanaa’s father acts like an overly-supportive soccer parent, having customized shirts indicating his fandom for his offspring. This is despite the fact that he is a notorious cold-blooded murderer. The problem is that they have to keep adding scenes of different hitmen being quirky or failing in order to stretch the premise out to feature length. Eventually, it turns a bit into white noise.

At least Gunther can’t wear out his welcome in a glorified cameo.

Overall, If you like seeing a bunch of people regularly humiliated, you’ll probably have a good time in this film. If you like a bunch of dark humor combined with Three-Stooges-esque scenes, you’ll probably like it. If not, this probably won’t feel worth it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.