Too much Monkeying around
THE MONKEY KING (PG)
Fantasy action/120 minutes/Opens today
Banished by the Jade Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) to Flaming Mountain after a failed attack, Bull Demon King (Aaron Kwok) bides his time for vengeance.
The Monkey King, Sun Wukong (Donnie Yen), is unaware that he is a crucial part of the plan. Egged on by the Bull Demon King, Sun goes on to wreak havoc in heaven.
Based on an episode of Wu Chengen's Ming Dynasty literary classic, Journey To The West.
IT IS a big gamble to bury your bankable leading man beneath a coat of animal fur - and it is one that does not quite pay off here.
Action star Yen is known for his deft moves and stoic demeanour, such as in the flicks about martial-arts figure Ip Man. In The Monkey King, he is completely unrecognisable in simian make-up, complete with upturned nostrils and sharp teeth.
To be fair, quite a bit of attention was paid to details and it might even have been an acting breakthrough for Yen.
Freed from being himself, so to speak, he scampers and bounds about like a hyperactive child and even conveys that spunky mischievousness of Sun. No mean feat for a man of 50.
Still, you cannot quite shake off the nagging feeling that this is a man in a monkey suit, and the impression is strengthened when you see an entire troop of monkeys. Presumably, less attention was paid to the get-up of the other monkeys as they were not played by top stars.
Other missteps include the Mandarin dubbing, which was curiously bloodless (when the Bull Demon King declared that he would attack heaven when the chance arose, it sounded as though Kwok was ordering takeout), and the decision to give the Monkey King a romantic interest in the form of a fox spirit - this just comes across as arbitrary and wrong.
The film is also dragged down by the heavy use of computer-generated imagery (CGI).
The landscapes conjured up are decidedly fake-looking.
Worse, even the actors go missing in the climactic battle, as two CGI creatures slug it out while CGI debris floats about.
The lesson here: Get the story right and stop monkeying around with CGI.