A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monkey King: Hero Is Back is a 2015 Chinese computer-animated film in which Jackie Chan plays the titular hero who is inadvertently freed by a little boy 500 years after a displeased Buddha banished him to an ice cage beneath the mountains. The intricate storyline might be confusing to kids. There is plenty of cartoon and martial arts violence, including scenes where characters fall off cliffs. The monsters have a demonic appearance, which could scare younger or sensitive kids. There's also some potty humor -- among the ragtag group who joins the Monkey King to fight the monsters, the cat is shown urinating, the pig has flatulence, and a young boy's nose is constantly dripping mucous, and there's scene in which another character picks her nose. It's also worth mentioning that the release of this movie was rescued by crowdsourcing; when some of the producers wanted a change in the story, the filmmakers refused to budge and went to the internet, and 109 families helped fund the movie, listing their young children as the producers.
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What's the story?
Five centuries ago, the Monkey King (Jackie Chan) was free to reign and do battle with other kings, but his impudence angered the gods, and he was banished to an ice cave beneath the mountains. Five hundred years later, monsters emerge and take over a nearby village, scattering the villagers, including a little boy who ends up beneath the mountains and inadvertently frees the Monkey King from his cage. While a reluctant hero who is annoyed by the little boy's nonstop questions, he joins forces with a ragtag bunch -- including a cat and a pig -- and they must work together and find a way to stop these monsters. This is also a chance for the Monkey King to redeem himself and prove his heroism to the gods who banished him.
Is it any good?
MONKEY KING: HERO IS BACK will engage tweens and parents looking for something different. It's an exciting computer-animated adventure that has become a cult hit in China, where it was released in 2015. The action is nonstop, the animation has some beautiful moments, and there is enough silliness to balance out all the demonic monsters seemingly around every bend.
While there is a slight tendency to get into Pixar clichés -- wacky animals with streetwise voices and lower GI issues, for instance -- these moments don't distract from the overall adventure and action that continues unabated from beginning to end. Some of the story, cultural background, and context might be lost on younger American viewers, but on the whole, once the movie takes hold, it doesn't let go.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about animated features in different countries. How is this Chinese movie similar to and different from North American movies?
Did the violence and monsters seem necessary to the story, or did it seem like they were put in to make the movie seem more interesting?
When the funding for this movie fell short, the filmmakers turned to "crowdsourcing" on the internet -- and 109 children, with obvious help from their families, provided the funds to help pay for the movie's completion. How might crowdsourcing change the way movies are made? How is this different from the way movies have traditionally been made and marketed?
- On DVD or streaming: July 10, 2015
- Cast: Jackie Chan, Kannon Kurowski, Roger Craig Smith
- Director: Tian Xiaopeng
- Studio: Cinedigm
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Action/peril, scary images, thematic elements and some rude humor.
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