Recently we have been seeing what there is to see on our streaming apps. For both of these movies being reviewed, we used Disney Plus (which we got for free when we signed up with our internet provider last year). Here are my thoughts on these two movies:
First up, let's tackle Luca and I'll keep it spoiler-free.
The animation was just what you'd expect from a Disney/Pixar, which is to say it looked excellent with the color palettes and the character designs. I liked the story, no overly scary parts but it was nothing ground-breaking. It was mostly predictable with a few minor twists. Didn't notice any crude humor or youth romance (there could be something between the male lead and female lead but it could easily be read as just friendship like Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter). I don't think there was anything overly scary (the species is called 'sea monsters' but they seem more akin to merpeople and also they call humans 'land monsters' which is kinda cute). There was one character (Uncle Ugo) that I thought looked creepy (he's played off as just odd but I could see getting nightmares from him if I was a small child). I liked the character of Giulia's father - I think he was very well done. All in all, I give it a solid 4 stars out of five - great for a family-friendly movie night, I recommend it and would watch it again. ★★★★☆
Now for Raya and the Last Dragon, again keeping it spoiler-free.
The animation was nice, and the over-all plot was compelling. There were some twists and it kept me engaged throughout the film. I really wanted to like it - there were dragons! Dragons are cool! On that note, why are dragons now fluffy like Elliot in the remake of Pete's Dragon? Is is just for merchandizing? I think it makes them look cute but they aren't very lizard-like. However, I felt the movie as a whole was very militaristic and there was just a lot of fighting for being a children's film. This is a minor point, but I really don't like the font they picked for the title - I keep reading it as Rava instead of Raya. As far as the plot, they has some unexpected parts and I think they came together nicely. I liked the character of Tong - they did a good job in creating an unexpectedly kind character - but he was arguably the only character that I liked. Most of them were annoying, unpleasant, and/or selfish. The reoccurring theme of trust is a good theme and there is a lack of romance (I see that as a good thing in most movies but especially children's ones - there is no need to be pairing off the lead female with whomever), but the film was saturated with violence and there was some crude humor (highlight here to see one example: a character wielding an battle axe is described with the term "bad-axery"). All in all, I give it maybe a two out of five stars - would not watch again, would not recommend. ★★☆☆☆
"Now Lauren," you might say, "how can you be a fan of Mulan but not Raya?" Well, let me tell you - Mulan is an example of a warrior who, while becoming very skilled at war, has the greater skill of creative problem-solving. She uses her brains to figure out how to climb the impossible pole, to orchestrate the avalanche, and to disarm the villain in the final boss battle (using her fan rather than her sword). And that's just three examples off the top of my head - I'm sure there are more. "But Lauren," you say, "I don't remember any of those scenes from the 2020 Mulan movie!" You would be correct, I am not a fan of the remake for many reasons but one major one is the removal or deemphasis on her brains and the emphasis on whatever chi is (seems like a super-power that she barely has to hone). In stark contrast to 1998's Mulan, Raya's main skill is her fighting. She uses her sword skillfully but that seems to be her main characteristic - she knows how to fight and she sees fighting as the main option in any confrontation. Most of the other characters in RatLD are the same - fighting is the main response.
I could give a more detailed review which would involve spoilers for the film, but I didn't like the film overall so I don't wish to delve further into it. If you like the film, then I'm glad it brought you some joy and you were able to get a positive experience in something that was not wholly positive for me.