Animated Movie

The Monkey King

Aggressively mediocre, Netflix’s “The Monkey King” takes no risks and offers too little humor, heart, or action to entertain all but the youngest in the family. Anyone in your clan old enough to read and not merely be enchanted by loud noises and flashing colors will likely get bored by this 96-minute movie that feels twice as long.

Tales of the Mandarin Chinese character known as Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King, have been told for generations, adapted into manga, TV series, and films many times. In fact, the great Stephen Chow, who made “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” in 2013 (along with must-sees “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer,” both directly referenced here) is an executive producer on this project, lending a bit of cultural credence to a Chinese tale being told by an American animator. However, director Anthony Stacchi, who helmed the hit “Open Season” and the excellent “The Boxtrolls,” fails to find enough that feels like actual cultural specificity here. It’s a truly generic tale of heroism, a road trip movie that takes two characters literally to Hell and back but doesn’t find much of interest on the journey. It’s a harmless animated adventure and a time-killer. Sometimes that’s all it takes for harried parents, but one of the most famous legends in Chinese history deserves better.

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