Good, Bad & Ugly Review: Journey To The West – Conquering The Demons

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: NA (Critics) / 75%% (Audience)
Directed By: Stephen Chow and Chi-kin Kwok
Written By: Stephen Chow and Chi-kin Kwok
Starring: Qi Shu, Zhang Wen, Bo Huang
Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Synopsis: A story centered on Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, his emerging feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly, and Sanzang’s transformative encounter with the Monkey King. – (Source)

The Good:
Stephen Chow really knows how to bring forth the joy inherent in these types of fantasy martial arts films whether it is through the physical comedy, the wire work or the outlandish visuals he dreams up.There is also a nice charming chemistry between the two leads in the film – Qi Shu and Zhang Wen. As star-crossed monster hunting nearly lovers they are incredibly adorable together with a funny Sadie Hawkins bent to their relationship.
For the most part the visuals are great with the distinctive looks of the demons and assorted demon hunters being highlights. I also really was impressed with the way the Monkey King himself looked. Instead of just slapping some fur and a tail on an actor this version of the Monkey King was a diminutive, simian looking fellow yet he was still able to be convincingly menacing.

The Bad:
Sometimes the way this film shifts tone can be a bit jarring. It goes from slapstick, to heartwarming to depressing all at a moments notice. When it all shifts seamlessly it can be amazing (like in the early scenes with the water demon in the fishing village) but when it fails it fails miserably (like in the third act).

The Ugly
While I liked the chemistry between the two lead actors I was a bit turned off by how vapid and shallow the notion of love was treated in this film. What looked for all intents and purposes like a goofy teenage crush was treated as some life-altering cosmic love which was bizarre and a bit insulting to me.

Final Verdict: A fun movie that fits right alongside Chow’s other films like KUNG-FU HUSTLE and SHAOLIN SOCCER as far as being fun to watch and pretty funny in spots. Visually it was quite dynamic and the performances were all very good. Some of the story beats seemed to have been rushed and not very well crafted but overall JOURNEY is more than enjoyable enough to overcome the few flaws that came up during my viewing.

Grade: B

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