Monkey King: Hero is Back

                                     by Bobby Blakey

Animated films are a dime a dozen these days with a wide variety hitting both the big screen as well as the straight home entertainment market. International releases in animation don’t usually get as big a release here in the US, but when they do it’s usually something big. The latest is the award winning Chinese feature Monkey King: Hero is Back featuring Jackie Chan in the title role, but does it have something that helps it standout that is worth the legend of this famed character or should it have never been released from his prison?

Monkey King: Hero is Back follows the all-powerful Monkey King who once roamed freely between Heaven and Earth, but after angering the Gods, he was imprisoned within an ice cage deep within the mountains. 500 years later, monsters attack a small village and a child flees to the mountains. Unknowingly, the child releases the Monkey King from his curse. With the help and encouragement from this special child, Monkey King saves the village from the evil monsters. This is one of those animated films that initially looks like it is just going to be one like all those low budget forgettable straight to home release features, but as it unfolds you can see why it was such a big success overseas. The story of the Monkey King has been told hundreds of times but this animated variation brings a new fun light to the legend that appeals to all ages. The animation is great bringing all kinds of action and adventure that brings a new visual treat to the story making it one that viewers can jump right into without having to know anything about it. The character designs are hit and miss with a clear Asian feel that some may not like, but you cannot really complain on this regard being an Asian production. There are times where the film drags a bit, but it does manage to still be fun and full of life most of the time.

Much like his voice work in the Kung Fu Panda series, Jackie Chan fits right in with this character and universe. He brings the familiar voice and name the film needs to get the wider credibility and appeal to a broader audience. While far from perfect this film does manage to entertain with plenty of laughs and martial arts fun for the whole family. Check it out for yourself exclusively now on Direct TV with plans for a theatrical release in July from Viva Pictures.

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