The Monkey King (2023)

The Monkey King (2023)

It can be too fast for comfort, but this adaptation of a Chinese folk tale has its entertaining and enlightening moments



China, Hong Kong
English, Mandarin
Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family
Andrew Kishino, Andrew Pang, Artemis Snow
92 min

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It’s a dizzying ride that will leave you smiling if a bit confused by the end.

What it's about

Based on a beloved Chinese character, The Monkey King follows a powerful monkey (voiced by Jimmy O. Yang) who battles all sorts of demons and creatures to gain immortality.

The take

From the moment it begins, The Monkey King hardly pauses to take a breath. The characters are always frantically jumping into the next scene, the action is nonstop, and the jokes, though juvenile, arrive one after the other. This is okay if you’re looking for a brisk viewing experience, but not so if you’re prone to vertigo. It moves at a relentless pace, which doesn’t just make the film a dizzying watch; it also robs the animation’s beautiful details of the time it needs to be appreciated. The movie’s core message, too, is buried under all the film’s pizzaz, which is a shame considering its refreshing pragmatism. When all the other kids’ movies are promoting courage and confidence, The Monkey King actually warns against the dangers of an inflated ego. The Monkey King is passable entertainment for the family, but with a better pace, it could’ve been great. 

What stands out

The animation is impressive. It draws from the richness of ancient Chinese history and combines it with fantastical elements to create something new and dazzling. One possible merit of the film’s high speed is that it hardly stops to explain the lore behind it. Those familiar with it will appreciate the visual nuances and details, while those who aren’t will be entranced by its strange wonder.

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