Movie review of “Monster Hunt”: Slapstick martial-arts action and roly-poly CGI creatures make this subtitled film funny and fast-paced. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Near the beginning of “Monster Hunt,” what looks like a small pineapple topped with helicopter rotors goes flittering across the screen. It’s the first indication that this will not be your usual monster movie.
From China it comes, bringing with it a different sensibility — and look — than what one generally finds in Western-produced venturings into the realm of ghoulies and ghosties and unnatural beasties that thump and crash through our neighborhood megaplexes.
Many of the CGI monsters here have a rounded, roly-poly look, like dumplings with Chia-pet hair, suction-cup ears and multiple rubbery tentaclelike arms. They’re not exactly harmless — sharp teeth and claws are also part of the ensemble — but they are kind of funny and fun. The fun factor is acknowledged within the picture itself when a human remarks that the central creature in this feature bears a distinct resemblance to a white radish. A radish with, not incidentally, a royal title.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Monster Hunt,’ with Boran Jing, Baihe Bai, Elaine Jin. Directed by Raman Hui, from a screenplay by Alan Yuen. 117 minutes. Not rated (contains slapstick martial-arts violence). In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.
The giggly little whatzis is the object of a tug of war between monster factions, one of which wants to crown it king and the other of which wants it dead. There’s an element in the second faction that also wants it cooked and served as a banquet main course.
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Entangled in this struggle are live-action human characters: a wimpy restaurant owner named Tianyin (Boran Jing) and a feisty lady bounty hunter named Huo (Baihe Bai), who wants to snag the critter and collect a generous reward offered by evildoers.
Complications arise because Tianyin is the baby’s birth father, which is to say he gave birth to the little guy (it’s complicated) and feels protective of him.
Traditional gender roles are turned on their heads, with Tianyin being a pregnant man who’s great at cooking and cleaning but pitifully inept at such tasks as battling beasties. That job falls to Huo.
Director Raman Hui mixes martial-arts fights and slapstick comedy (lots of mugging by Jing) into a whimsical, fast-paced monster mash. It’s subtitled, so its appeal to families is probably limited, but it’s certainly a lively ride.
It’s the highest-grossing Chinese-made movie of all time, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In its home market, it’s definitely a monster.