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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NOT Sponsored Review: Guns Akimbo – Scott Pilgrim Meets Battle Royale

Daniel Radcliffe is shooting people in a future that probably will be here soon if we don’t elect Mike Bloomberg.

*This review has been updated due to certain recent events*

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s the future, assuming that America fails to value fiscal responsibility in November. There is a large criminal organization called Skizm that runs an underground fight club where they stream death matches between criminals, crazy people, and people they’ve forced into it. Hundreds of thousands of people join Skizm’s forums to watch. 

Toilet
Yes, people watch death fights on the toilet. You know they would.

Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) is a programmer who works out his hero complex by trolling Skizm viewers online. When he goes on a drunken binge of harassing the murder-hungry viewers, Miles ends up getting spotted by the head of Skizm, Riktor (Ned Dennehy), who tracks Miles down. He breaks into Miles’s apartment with his henchmen Dane, Effie, and F*ckface (Mark Rowley, Racheal Ofori, Set Sjöstrand). They knock Miles unconscious and, when he wakes up, he finds that he has guns bolted to his hands, loaded with 50 bullets each. He also finds out that he is now involuntarily in a death battle with a woman named Nix (Samara Weaving), the deadliest killer in Skizm. 

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Yes, they literally nailed the guns to his hands.

Miles somehow has to stop Nix, avoid the completely reasonable use of stop and frisk by the police, and maybe make up with his ex-girlfriend Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo).

END SUMMARY

First of all, Daniel Radcliffe has been working hard to leave Harry Potter behind and his performance in this film is a firm step in that direction, although I would argue that his performances in Jungle and Swiss Army Man were just as good. It’s nice to watch people try to move forward with their lives; to build on their previous success and use it as a jumping off point to greater things, like running for President after being a three term Mayor who definitely didn’t repeatedly order surveillance of random Muslim groups. Radcliffe’s portrayal of Miles is, honestly, more than I would have expected from a film like this. He’s not a deep character by any means, but he is perfectly representative of the kind of person that has spent a long life playing video games and living virtually being thrown into an insane video-game-like situation. At first, he’s terrified, but then he slowly learns to kind of dissociate and enjoy it at times. It’s horrifying in a way, but also extremely entertaining since he sells it so well.

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He also sells the learning curve of having guns on your hands.

Similarly, a lot of the supporting characters are so much more interesting than they would normally be in this kind of action film. Samara Weaving’s Nix manages to have a surprising amount of depth beyond her drug-fueled psychopathy. Her eyes especially convey that she’s burying something besides just the bodies of the people around her. Even the henchmen Dane and Effie, despite their brief times onscreen, manage to have some interesting character quirks that speak to their personalities beyond just “henchperson.” I haven’t seen such great development per minute on film since Mayor Bloomberg’s cameo on The Good Wife. 

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Seriously, see her in The Babysitter or Ready or Not.

Now, I am not saying that these are Oscar-worthy, but they help to keep the movie interesting despite the fact that it’s mostly just a series of fast-paced action sequences that are not, in themselves, that creative. They’re shot in a creative way, but they’re mostly just faster versions of the town scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, where the good guys shoot great and the bad guys are stormtroopers. 

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I mean, Radcliffe literally does a leaping two-gun fire for no reason.

The violence in the movie is going to be a turn-off for a lot of people. The movie presents it in the style of a first-person shooter video game, down to the bullet counter that tells the audience how many shots Miles has left. Nix randomly appears with massively upgraded and exchanged weapons, including a minigun and a rocket propelled grenade launcher. This movie clearly takes place in a world where common sense gun laws, like those of future-President Bloomberg, were never enacted. Despite the ridiculous nature of the scenes, the violence is very real at points and that becomes jarring when paired with pop music.

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
Dystopias are always signaled by a sanitation strike.

Also, the music in this film is amazing. Most of the songs match the scenes perfectly both in tone and theme, including working in the title song from the great movie Iron Eagle, although it failed to work in any songs by famed Bloomberg supporter John Mellencamp.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable film if you like action movies, particularly action comedies. It’s pretty stylized so it might turn some people off, but I liked it a lot. Almost as much as I like texting Mike to 77054.

Last, I’d just like to take a second to talk about contracts. If you, say, have a representative contact a part-time blogger with an offer to pepper in a few positive statements towards a person, maybe don’t cancel the check at the last minute just because you only won American Samoa. It’s kind of a dick move to spend $600 million on campaigning and then short someone $100 at the last minute. You paid those Fyre Festival guys to help create memes for you, but can’t give me a few bucks? You rich bastard. 

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.