A few words, then, about the Chinese martial arts fantasy “Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back.”
And since I don’t know the Chinese translation for “batsh– crazy,” I’ll keep this brief.
This demented, luridly-colored, effects-driven sequel — What, you missed 2013’s “Journey to the West?” — may be the craziest thing you ever drop in on in a movie theater.
Martial arts comic Stephen Chow (“Kung Fu Hustle”) turned a 16th century Chinese novel — more a fantastical folk tale — about a monk, his magical allies and their quest to battle demons into a showcase for Chinese makeup artists (top drawer), production designers (a bit primitive) and effects wizards (treading their own path).
Fans of martial arts pictures and Chinese folklore will recognize the figure of The Monkey King, sometimes sober (Drunken Monkey) trickster and fighter of ancient legend. He (Kenny Lin) is the subject of much hand-wringing by his Monk Master (Kris Wu). With his binding headpiece on, he’s manageable. But cross him?
“BAD monkey! Why are you so bad? Learn to be a GOOD boy!”
He uses his magic bullwhip to punish the monkey. No, the American Humane Society didn’t sign off on this picture.
The monk may think “our days of conquering demons are at an end.” But that’s before they run into femmes fatales, sirens who morph (quite brilliantly) into “hairy crab” or lobsters or spiders.
There’s violence, profanity and general abuse mixed in with fights, exorcisms and nonsensical arguments with townspeople/bystanders caught up in all this colorful mayhem, with pig-faced or monkey-headed heroes tangling with all manner of monster.
None of it makes a lick of sense, and the slaps and slapstick and sexual coercion tucked into this fable make it a tough sell as a cultural crossover.
And the 3D is the worst I’ve ever seen in an American movie theater. Incompatible with some projection systems? Almost certainly.
Impressive effects and makeup, otherwise incoherent.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some suggestive content, rude humor and thematic elements
Running time: 1:49