Review: Is Disney's 'Raya and the Last Dragon' worth the extra $30?

A still shot from Disney's "Raya and the Last Dragon," which debuts in theaters and on Disney+ with premier access on Friday, March 5, 2021.


Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

KUMANDRA — Even though some movies are headed back to theaters, it's just not like it use to be. Releases are slow-coming, at best, and many titles are available to stream the same day it releases.

The latest big title to do this is Disney's "Raya and the Last Dragon."

Starting today, "Raya" will be playing in theaters and on Disney+ for an extra $30 with premier access on top of your monthly subscription. The live-action "Mulan" was also available with premier access on Disney+, but did not make it into theaters in 2020.

The question now is pretty simple: Is "Raya" worth braving the theater or the extra $30 on Disney+? That's what I'm here for. Here are some things about "Raya" that work, and some that don't.

It's fun

When it comes to a family film, there are two big things I'm looking for: Will the kids think it's fun and does it have enough to keep me engaged? I think, overall, "Raya" delivers on my family film criteria.

With a runtime of one hour and 54 minutes, you're playing with fire when it comes to kids's attention spans — and mine. But my family was into it from beginning to end and I was as well, for the most part. There are some good laughs, lively action scenes, and heartfelt moments that keep the the film moving and offer a fun and intriguing atmosphere.

Awkwafina and the rest of the voice cast are excellent

The voice cast does a pretty solid job with some good performances from Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and a spot-on Benedict Wong as Tong, the warrior with a soft side. But the scene stealer is Awkwafina as Sisu, the last dragon.

I bought my ticket and found a cozy cabin on the Awkwafina train as soon as I saw "Crazy Rich Asians." I then moved up to first class after "Jumanji: The Next Level" and "The Farewell."

She is a talented comedian and her humor and magnetism are on full display with her voice work in "Raya." The cast did a really great job, but Awkwafina is a real stand out with Wong pretty close behind.

The world-building is fascinating

I'm a sucker for strong world-building. That's why I love the "Harry Potter" series and "The Dark Knight" trilogy.

I don't want to get too into it because I'd like to avoid any spoilers, but "Raya and the Last Dragon" doesn't take place in China, Asia, India, Mongolia or any other Asian country or region. It's based in a completely different world with a rich history and stunning locales.

The creators thought through the world-building of the film and its history, and I appreciate the extra time they took to construct the atmosphere of Kumandra and its varying lands.

The pacing falls off here and there

If you've ever read any of my reviews before, you know pacing is a big deal to me. You can keep me engaged and entertained when things are moving fast or slow, but you need to handle it the right way and down shift or hit the gas at the right moments.

There are moments when "Raya" drops from fifth gear all the way to first way too fast.

The film doesn't suffer from pacing problems throughout, but it happened enough that there were times I was checking my watch. Thankfully, my kids didn't seem to notice because there were still some jokes and pretty scenery to keep them interested, but it lost me at times.

It took me some time to realize that we started slow, had a quick action moment, then dropped right back down. We spend more time in the lows than the highs, and then at the end of the movie, we shift back into high gear and stay there for a while, with a lot of chaos that doesn't feel completely earned.

There's a lack of connection with the characters

While I enjoyed the voice performances, I also found I wasn't connected with the characters.

One of the recent Disney Animation films I think really nailed the connection to the characters was "Moana." I was all-in on the backstories of Moana and Maui. I cared about their wellbeing and associated with their insecurities and desires, which led to mistakes and ultimately their triumphs.

I kind of felt that connection with Raya, a little with Sisu, and that's about where it ended. I liked the other characters and despite some of their tragic backstories, I found I wasn't emotionally connected to them. If I'm not connected with the central characters, it's hard for me to get too connected with the film as a whole.

Is it worth the trip to the theater or the extra $30?

Here's the important question you've all been eagerly waiting for. Is it worth the cash? Yes, it is.

If you want to go to the theater with your whole family, it will be more expensive than $30, but could be a fun change of scenery, if you're comfortable with heading out. If you're not, this really is a fun movie for the family and $30 to have a new experience is worth it. And when it comes to younger kids, they love the idea of watching new movies that are in the theater at home. I'd say seeing that kind of joy is worth $30.

"Raya and the Last Dragon" isn't perfect and I don't believe it's as memorable as some recent Disney Animation films like "Moana," "Frozen" or "Zootopia," but it's Disney. As always it's fun, it's pretty, and it's an an enjoyable night in or out with the family.

"Raya and the Last Dragon" is rated PG for some violence, action and thematic elements.

John Clyde

About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. Contact him on Twitter at @johnnypclyde.

Most recent Entertainment stories

Related topics

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about.


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast