THE MONKEY KING is an action-packed family comedy that follows a charismatic Monkey and his magical fighting Stick on an epic quest for victory over 100 demons, an eccentric Dragon King, and Monkey’s greatest foe of all -his own ego. Along the way, a young village girl challenges his self-centered attitude and shows him that even the smallest pebble can have a big effect on the world.
The monkey’s powerful staff known by various names-Compliant Golden-Hooped Rod and the As-You-Will-Gold-Banded Cudgel- is now a Jedi Lightsaber prototype called Stickipoo. The staff even has its own obstinate personality. It squeaks, hums and squeals like R2D2.
The Monkey King (voiced by Jimmy O. Yang) is no model of virtue, patience and beauty. He’s an orange haired impatient, randy narcissist. No, this is not a Donald Trump equivalent. It’s just the writers (Ron J. Friedman, Stephen Bencich and Rita Hsiao) and director (Anthony Stacchi) trying to spin something new from old and not properly thinking through the modern political connotations of such an update.
The monkey is given a child samurai straight man (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport) , which I suspect is suppose to be an echo of the original Wukong character. It doesn’t tamp down his irritating personality. The film works as far as its comedy and martial arts scene work- which is just barely.
The animation has a frenetic and frenzy quality that imitates Chinese 16th century paintings. It tempts the viewer to find the beauty in the motion. When it slows down, such as in a scene where endless flaming lanterns dangle over an expanse of countless ghosts, it’s breath taking in its use of angles and space- a perfect depiction of the Chinese concept of the afterlife. Too bad the raging narcissistic gods and one bratty monkey spoil the view.
The Monkey King gets a 3.0 out of 5 or a B. It’s streaming on Netflix.
- 30 July 2023(NYAFF)
- 18 August 2023(Netflix)
- United States