Parents' Guide to

The Legend of Hei

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Violence, some drinking in Chinese animated fantasy.

Movie NR 2019 101 minutes
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This is a story about right versus wrong, coexistence, and deforestation that's as thoughtful as it is cute. The Legend of Hei is a Chinese animated fantasy movie in which Hei, a young boy/cat/cat-demon, must pick a side in a rapidly-escalating battle between a spirit that rescued Hei from humans and a spirit that's trying to rescue Hei from the spirit that rescued Hei from humans. The movie makes effective use of the blurred lines between "good guy" and "bad guy," and the confusion Hei contends with as he must choose between the two, even as he's learning how to use his spirit powers. There are some moments of levity, as there's something amusing about a tiger-spirit of few words who holds a cup to Hei while he's a young boy and grunts, "Booze?"

It's a movie that combines many serious themes and conflicts with cutesy animation and engaging action. While the story sometimes seems on the verge of veering off into so many tangents and random moments (there's a shootout between cops and a robber while Hei and Infinity are at a table in an outdoor cafe for some reason), it more or less stays on track. The animation, while at times using some of the more familiar aspects of Asian animated fare, has an original style, particularly in scenes involving deforestation. Best of all, it's an animated movie that be enjoyed by both adults and kids as much for the messages and conflicts as for the cute characters and fight scenes.

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