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Ne Zha

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Ne Zha Movie Poster Image
Lots of fantasy violence in animation based on Chinese myth.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 110 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You are the master of your own fate, and only you control your destiny. Learn to ignore what others think or say about you because people are full of prejudice. You have the capacity to dominate your own worst traits and cultivate your own mind through practice and discipline. Perseverance and self-control are themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents love their child unconditionally and are willing to put themselves in harm's way to save him. Friends withstand even the most powerful negative forces to help each other. Guardians protect their charges, even at risk to themselves. Characters stand up to bullying and negativity to learn their own self-worth.

Violence

Animated characters of all ages and species are punched, kicked, set on fire, thrown in the air or sea, strangled, stabbed, crushed, swarmed by bees, eaten by monsters, petrified, doomed by curses, and otherwise threatened throughout the film.

Sex
Language

Language in subtitles translated from Mandarin includes words like "blasted," "fatty," "curses," "bastard," "idiot," "hell," "wuss," "moron," "bullcrap," "crapper."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character drinks a jug of liquid he doesn't realize is laced with medicine that will put him to sleep, and he's accused of being drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ne Zha -- the visually dazzling animated origin story of a character who's well-known in Chinese mythology -- has positive underlying messages (including perseverance and self-control) but also lots of fantasy violence and some emotionally taxing scenes. Younger or more sensitive viewers may be upset by the threats to a toddler-age character and his parents' tangible fear, including heart-wrenching screams when they think he's died. Characters are punched, kicked, set on fire, thrown in the air or sea, strangled, stabbed, crushed, swarmed by bees, eaten by monsters, petrified, doomed by curses, and more. Language is mild but includes some taunting, lashing out, and potty talk, with words like "bullcrap," "moron," "wuss," "crapper," "hell," "bastard," and "idiot."

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What's the story?

Marked with a scarlet symbol on his forehead, NE ZHA (voiced by Yanting Lu) is born under a divine prophecy that he'll bring destruction to the world and then die on his third birthday. But, despite the curse, his parents love him unconditionally and will do anything to protect their son (who looks and acts older than his tender years) from his fate and nature. He also needs protecting from scared, distrusting villagers, as well as battling guardians whose immortality depends on the success or failure of the "evil" Ne Zha. The story is inspired by Chinese mythology and based somewhat on the book The Investiture of the Gods.

Is it any good?

This animated fantasy was a huge box office hit in its native China, and its empowering messages and stunning visuals will make it an engaging watch for fans of the genre. That said, the storyline could be initially confusing to audiences with no connection to the Chinese legend of the powerful but cursed boy (he's a very familiar figure in China, however, with this film serving as an origin story), and the endless action and violence might prove tedious for parents or more critical viewers.

But there are some very positive lessons here about fitting in, learning self-control, and believing in yourself and your family despite others' preconceived notions, prejudices, or bullying. There's also quite a bit of humor in some of the exaggerated characters and sillier sequences, as well as pathos in Ne Zha's relationships and his attempts to control his demon nature. And the animation is dazzling, particularly scenes involving a painted landscape that characters can only escape by painting their way out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the action and violence in Ne Zha. How does it compare to that of other animated movies you've seen? What about live-action ones? Does all movie violence have the same impact?

  • How does the ancient Chinese myth of Ne Zha compare to its retelling in this film and/or other adaptations of it? Do you need to be familiar with the myth to appreciate or understand this film?

  • Does the animation in Ne Zha remind you of any other movies you've watched? How so?

  • How do the characters demonstrate the value of perseverance and self-control? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Talk about the concepts of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy and how they play into the story of Ne Zha.

Movie details

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