A Dreamworks animator from Hong Kong and a Taiwanese screenwriter teamed up for China’s biggest home-grown animation hit, “Monster Hunt.”
A monsters and martial arts mashup, it arrives on American shores as an animation/live action combo that loses something in translation — despite a heaping helping of Dreamworks touches — cute monsters and bodily function gags — and Chinese martial arts slapstick and wirework stunts.
In an ancient age, humans are at war with the monsters in their midst. And there’s infighting among the monsters themselves. A pregnant old queen slips her last egg to an unwitting peasant restaurateur Song Tianyin (Boran Ling). The monster-hunter second class Lily (Baihe Bai) becomes his protector,even as she tries to bag enough monsters in her own right to claim a promotion.
Opposing them is rival monster hunter Gao (Eric Tsang), who aims to claim the infant “king” monster as his own after the eggs hatches.
It’s a comedy of Shrek-like trolls, porcupines with helicopter-blades for hair and heaping hulks that menace one and all. The “good” monsters, capable of donning human disguises, could easily live in peace with people. If they weren’t so cunning and so fond of ordering “human liver” from shocked restaurant waiters.
There’s a goofy charm to some sequences, and Baihe Bai is a mean hand with a whip and no stranger to wirework “flying” kicks and the like. The brawls are just cute enough to pass for kid-friendly. The “humans and monsters can live in peace” is very “How to Train Your Dragon,” which is among director Raman Hui’s TV credits.
The animation? Nothing to write home about — sort of “Pixar 2.0” — not remotely state-of-the-art. And the inclusion of nonsense songs sung in “Monster language” add nothing.
There’s a grisly touch to several scenes that points to a culture clash, even when dubbed (it’s being shown in both English-dubbed and original Cantonese versions). Humans eat monsters, too, among other delicacies.
Why DO you suppose there are puppies for sale in the open air meat market scene?
Take it as a transitional comedy for kids about to outgrow “Kung Fu Panda” and keep your expectations low — very low — and you won’t mind it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, bodily function jokes
Cast: Baihe Bai, Boran Jing, Eric Tsang
Credits: Directed by Raman Hui, script by Alan Yuen. A FilmRise release.
Running time: 1:51