Ne Zha Parent Guide
Bold and distinct character design makes it easier to keep track of the characters and plot points - helpful for viewers who don't know their Chinese mythological tales.
Parent Movie Review
Ne Zha begins in Heaven, where a spirit came into being that was too powerful to be contained until the Lord of Heaven divided it into a Heavenly Pearl and a Demonic Pearl. Each was to be sent to Earth, but the Demonic Pearl was cursed: in three years it would be destroyed by a bolt from Heaven. But the plan goes awry when a disaffected immortal switched the pearls. The Demonic Pearl found Ne Zha, in the Chentang Pass, while the Heavenly Pearl went to Ao Bing, the son of the Dragon King. Ne Zha and Ao Bing will both have to confront their warring personalities in order to find their destinies and avoid destruction.
It’s a classic nature vs nurture kind of story, in which the main character struggles not only with the demonic energy inside him, but his kind and loving parents, and the alienation of his village. Ne Zha has to deal with a lot for a kid who isn’t supposed to live past the age of three, and his struggles are both tragic and entertaining (typically not at the same time). Ao Bing, his supposed rival, has a similarly difficult conflict, but he handles it very differently.
The story is based on a part of Chinese mythology, namely the 16th century Investiture of the Gods. It’s a compelling tale, if slightly confusing for someone who isn’t at all familiar with the mythology. The movie is helpful, with bold and distinct character designs throughout that make keeping track of characters and plot points easier for the dumb North Americans (me) who don’t already know their Chinese mythical stories.
I’m actually a little puzzled as to why this particular film is getting such a broad release. Foreign children’s films don’t usually open in theaters nation-wide. With this unusual circumstance in mind, I went into the screening assuming that Ne Zha would be somehow unique or distinct enough to explain its wide release. But, while it’s a decent enough kids’ movie, neither the animation nor the writing explain its appearance in my city’s busiest theater. I’m guessing the reasons are purely financial: Ne Zha performed exceptionally well in China’s domestic market and studios may have assumed it would fare well in North America.
Viewers who check it out will find that Ne Zha is well animated and reasonably exciting – with lots of punch-em-up, flame-tossing, animated violence to keep the story moving along. Parents will be pleased that the violence is highly stylized and sanitized and there is virtually no other content in the film to be concerned about, with the exception of a scene of excessive alcohol consumption.
Despite Ne Zha’s pluses, it is unlikely to be a big hit with domestic audiences. The principal reason is that the movie is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Unless your ten-year-old speaks fluent Mandarin (as did many in the showing I attended) they’ll likely be bored or distracted and will lose track of the story. Which is too bad: the movie is full of the slapstick action and fart jokes which are just about the funniest things in the world for ten-year-olds the world over. But to properly enjoy these humorous moments, kids will need to read subtitles pretty quickly to stay up to speed with the film. It’d be a real shame if they missed out on the deep Chinese mythology, or worse (to a kid), the explanations for a fart joke.Directed by Jiaozi. Starring Yanting Lü, Joseph, and Mo Han.. Running time: 110 minutes. Theatrical release August 29, 2019. Updated August 30, 2019
Watch the trailer for Ne Zha
Rating & Content Info
Why is Ne Zha rated Not Rated? Ne Zha is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: It’s an animated action movie so cartoonish violence is a regular part of the show. Individuals are frequently thrown around, punched, kicked, stabbed, burned, frozen, electrocuted, and hit with cartoonishly large wooden mallets.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: One mild profanity is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: One character is depicted as a drunk and is shown consuming ludicrous amounts of alcohol from large jugs.
Page last updated August 30, 2019
Ne Zha Parents' Guide
Ne Zha is a well known figure in Chinese mythology. Does he resemble characters from other mythologies you are familiar with?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you want to learn more about Chinese myths, check out Illustrated Myths; Legends of China; The Ages of Chaos and Heroes by Huang Dehai, Siang Jing, and Zhang Dinghao.
Young readers will enjoy Chinese Myths and Legends: The Monkey King and Other Adventures. This brightly illustrated collection is written by Shelley Fu and illustrated by Patrick Yee. The duo have also written Treasury of Chinese Folk Tales: Beloved Myths and Legends from the Middle Kingdom.
Newbery Honor Winner Grace Lin has used Chinese mythology to create a fantasy trilogy that begins with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The next books are Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver. Suitable for tweens, the books are fully illustrated.
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If you’re intrigued by Asian animated features, there’s a lot to choose from in the Japanese anime tradition. Some of the best known are Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises for stories of young people who play critical parts in tumultuous times.