Reviewby Luke Carroll, Jan 20th 2009
THE IRREPRESSIBLE MONKEY IS BACK!
The "irrepressible" Monkey is back in a brand new adventure! Again we find our favourite companions on their journey headed west.
On the way they encounter a beautiful princess Reimi from the Tiger Kingdom which has been ravaged and turned into a desert wasteland by two evil brothers (one of whom is played by Iron Chef's "Chairman" Kaga). To defeat the brothers, they travel to the mountains of northern China to retrieve a magical Dragon Ball-like orb.
Along the journey they meet many dangers and challenges and the evil might of the Gold and Silver King brothers. Can the Monkey king, Son Goku, find the orb and defeat the demon brothers before they cast the world into eternal darkness?
Since being anonymously published way back in the late 15th century, the tale commonly known to many as the Journey to the West has been adapted numerous times on almost every form of storytelling known to man. Depicting the adventures faced by a priest and his three disciples as they journeyed from China to India in order to obtain religious texts known as the sutras, this mythical story has proved itself to be a popular item in Japan. So popular in fact that a number of live action television shows have been produced over time as well as countless anime adaptations and parodies. With the latest of these television shows finishing in 2006, broadcasting giant Fuji Tv decided to bring the age old Chinese tale back to the big screen in the form of Monkey Magic, a lighthearted and fun film that proves itself to be a great popcorn flick - provided you can overlook the average script and the hit and miss acting.
Instead of trying to recreate the entire tale into a feature film, Monkey Magic thankfully opts for using an isolated story. Whilst trekking through the sandy desert, our heroic group comes across a barren area known as the Tiger Kingdom. Upon entering they soon learn that the Princess of the Kingdom is in dire need of their assistance. A pair of powerful demons have arrived onto the land, destroying the Kingdom's once luscious soil as well as transforming the King and Queen into a pair of turtles. With the only cure being to destroy the demons, the group reluctantly accepts the Princess's plea and sets out on a journey to kill the evil pair. Without spoiling much more of the film; plot twists and hidden agendas are eventually revealed, friendships get tested, and everything snowballs itself into a final yet predictable climatic scene.
Luckily though, Monkey Magic breaks up these serious tones with a constant stream of silly humour and over the top action scenes designed to keep a smile on your face from start to finish. Whether or not you actually will retain this smile will depend on your own tolerances for both the average plot that manages to forget the existence of half the cast and the overacting performance SMAP member Shingo Katori gives of Son Goku, one of which can become quite grating at times. Speaking of well known stars, those with a keen eye may just be able to pick out the ever so popular Iron Chef 'Chairman' Kaga playing the role of one of the evil brothers in the film.
As with any action adventure film, good visuals and special effects are a must. Thankfully Monkey Magic doesn't disappoint in this department, instinctively using its over the top nature as a way to put in excessive amounts of unrealistic visuals and effects that wouldn't go astray out of an episode of the Power Rangers. Surprisingly it works quite a treat when blended with the lighthearted tone of the film, giving the surreal feeling that you were watching a real life comedic anime at times. Although the special effects do occasionally stand out of place more then they should, it certainly isn't enough of a problem to ruin the film's enjoyment.
The audio in Monkey Magic also proves quite a treat to listen to. Despite not being too memorable the tunes and orchestral pieces manage to do their job adequately, enhancing much of the action on screen without providing an overpowering tone. The sound effects also come across as well done, skillfully blending in with the lighthearted nature of the film whilst never feeling too far out of place. As with most of Eastern Eye's recent titles, both a Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 Japanese audio track have been included in the package, although those wishing for a novelty English dub or DTS audio will have to go without. Overall there is very little to complain about the audio, it does its job sufficiently and rarely puts a foot wrong.
Unfortunately our editorial copy of this release did not include any extras.
When all is said and done, Monkey Magic is simply nothing more than a fun entertaining family flick. It may not have the deep plot or engaging characters that others films aim for, however it does know how to put on an amusing show. A show of which may not rekindle your memories like you wanted, but it will still put a smile on your face from time to time. If you're after an entertaining afternoon movie that can be good fun for the whole family, then a dose of Monkey Magic is maybe just what you need.
© 2007 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK, TOHO, J-DREAM, FNS
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Music : C
+ Simple family fun
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