Very Good (2.5 stars)
Dubbed or in Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Film Rise
Directed by Raman Hui (Shrek the Third), “Monster Hunt” was released across Asia last summer where it became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. The version I watched was dubbed into English, which served to turn the martial arts / comedy mash-up into a decidedly campy affair.
The experience reminded me of the Japanese horror flicks from the Fifties where the corny dialogue invariably failed to fit the movement of the actors’ mouths. This one even has its characters often speaking in inappropriately-modern idioms such as “You are such a loser!” Purists might be happy to know that the movie is also being made available with subtitles, though I suspect it’s far funnier lip-synched.
Set during an ancient dynasty, the picture features an unapologetically exuberant mix of sentiment and slaps / tick that endeavors to tug at your heartstrings while simultaneously tickling your funny bone. The CGI-driven, costume fantasy unfolds in a mythical kingdom inhabited by both humans and monsters.
The plot thickens when the hamlet’s male mayor, Tianyin (Jing Boran), is miraculously impregnated by a malevolent Monster Queen. Next thing you know, just about everybody around, human and monster alike, wants half-breed baby Wooba dead, much to the chagrin of the glowing, expecting daddy.
Lucky for Tianyin, he forges a fast friendship with Hua Xiaolan (Bai Baihe), a female warrior blessed with a winning combination of maternal instincts and mad karate skills. She’s determined to save the radish-shaped bundle of joy, so what ensues is an overstimulating kitchen sink adventure throwing everything up on the screen from cartoon physics fight scenes to Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers.
Kid-friendly fare amusing enough to entertain adults, too, provided their brains are on pause!