Saturday 19 August 2023

REVIEW: The Monkey King (2023) - Starring Jimmy O. Yang and Bowen Yang

Review by Jon Donnis
"The Monkey King" is a 2023 animated family film directed by Anthony Stacchi that attempts to bring the classic Chinese folktale to a contemporary audience. While it has its share of pros, including well-voiced characters, a blend of classic and modern storytelling, moments of humour, and a lively energy, the film also stumbles in certain areas, resulting in a mixed cinematic experience.

One of the standout features of the movie is the voice cast, with notable performances from Jimmy O. Yang as the Monkey King and Jolie Hoang-Rappaport as Lin. The characters come to life through their voices, adding depth and charisma to the narrative. The film's soundtrack complements the action well and enhances the emotional moments.

The martial arts scenes in the film are well-choreographed and add an exciting dimension to the story. They capture the essence of the Monkey King's legendary prowess and add an element of thrill for both young and older audiences. The attempt to distil the complex centuries-old tale into a quirky folktale that appeals to children is commendable and does result in some enjoyable moments for the target audience.

However, "The Monkey King" struggles with several shortcomings that hinder its overall impact. The animation quality is inconsistent, with some scenes exhibiting poor visuals that detract from the immersive experience. DreamWorks Animation this aint! Additionally, the film's pacing can be overly frenetic at times, which might make it difficult for viewers to fully engage with the story and characters. 

While the film successfully infuses modern elements into the classic tale, it occasionally veers into generic territory. The utilization of the Monkey King's Chinese mythological background can feel superficial and might disappoint those looking for a deeper exploration of the source material.

The film manages to capture the charm of the original folktale and introduces it to a new generation through well-voiced characters, energetic scenes, and a touch of humour. However, the inconsistent animation quality and occasional lack of depth prevent it from reaching its full potential. Despite its flaws, the movie serves as a light-hearted family-friendly option for an afternoon of entertainment, though it might not leave a lasting impression.

I score "The Monkey King" a fair 6 out of 10.

Out now on Netflix at