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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monster Hunt is a family-friendly Chinese action-fantasy film that blends CGI animation with live action as it follows a brave warrior on her quest to track down a newborn monster who's destined to unite the human and supernatural kingdoms. It was a (pun intended) monster hit in China, with many of the country's most popular stars appearing in cameo roles. There's no sex (just a kiss), swearing (only "stupid" and "shut up"), or drinking, and while there's plenty of martial-arts fighting mayhem (sometimes with fists/feet and others with weapons), it's more like acrobatics than combat. In the United States, the film is being released in both Mandarin with English subtitles and with English dubbing.
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What's the story?
In a world where monsters are a constant threat to people, it's a good thing that monster hunters -- skilled warriors trained to spot the beasts even when they're disguised in human guise -- are on patrol. In MONSTER HUNT, the queen of the monsters is about to give birth, but when her entourage is waylaid by an unexpected foe, she's forced to hide her egg inside a simple human villager, Tianyin (Boran Jing). He has no idea what's about to happen, so fortunately he encounters Xiaolan (Baihe Bai), a monster hunter who helps deliver the baby beast. Together, they vow to protect the newborn monster in an epic tale of martial arts mayhem and CGI monster madness.
Is it any good?
Don't think too much about the twists and turns in this movie; if you don't try to make sense of everything, the film can hold its own (sort of) as a silly, entertaining spectacle. The fight scenes are acrobatic showcases that have the actors doing flips, twists, leaps, and other amazing feats, and the love-hate chemistry between Jing and Bai gets more interesting as the film goes on. Bai especially adds some zest to the film, with a mischievous look that belies her inner steel.
The other stars of Monster Hunt are the monsters, CGI creations that blend seamlessly within the live-action movie. Each one is different, and they're all equally expressive -- but the cutest of the lot is the baby, named Wuba, who's adorable in every way. It's no wonder that Xiaolan and Tianyin end up wrapped around Wuba's tentacles, and so will the audience. Kids won't even need to be able to read all the subtitles to enjoy the on-screen action.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role of fighting in Monster Hunt. How does it compare to martial arts action in other movies? Does it have real-life consequences? Should it, in a movie like this? How much violent/scary stuff can young kids handle?
How does the film handle gender roles? The main female character is the capable warrior, while her male counterpart is a helpless villager with no significant skills -- is that unusual?
Why do the monsters and the humans hate each other? How does Xiolan's role change during the course of the film? By the end, is she trying to capture monsters or save them?
- In theaters: January 22, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2016
- Cast: Bai Baihe, Boran Jing
- Director: Raman Hui
- Studio: FilmRise
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Sports and martial arts, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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