The Monkey King Parent Guide
It's difficult to fall in love with an unlikeable main character.
Parent Movie Review
The Monkey King (Jimmy O. Yang) is not like other monkeys. He was born from a rock and the Buddha himself (BD Wong) has declared that he has an important destiny. Thanks to these unusual origins, Monkey King is ostracized by the other chimps and consoles himself by learning martial arts and dreaming of joining the immortals. After being gifted a magical fighting stick, Monkey King sets out to kill 100 demons as his payment for immortality. He is joined on his quest by Lin (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport), a young girl determined to make a difference in the world.
One of the most important aspects of a hero’s journey is the protagonist’s character development. Writers need to walk a fine line here, beginning with a flawed hero – but one who’s not so flawed that the audience won’t root for him (or her). Unfortunately, I think the writers of this film missed the mark on that critical element of character design and plot planning. Monkey King is not a likeable character for most of the runtime. He has charming moments here or there but they’re always brief and immediately undermined. It’s hard to root for him which makes this a difficult movie to watch. In contrast, the main villain, the Dragon King (Bowen Yang), is so delightful that I found myself cheering him on instead. That is in no way a reflection on Jimmy O. Yang’s fantastic performance; it’s more an error in the story and writing.
The film’s pace is frenetic, moving from action sequence to action sequence, which makes the plot hard to follow. However, for young audiences this might be a good thing, since it doesn’t give short attention spans any chance at boredom. There is a really good movie in here somewhere. It just needed a few more script drafts and some room to breathe.
Despite my many complaints, I wouldn’t call The Monkey King a bad movie. It’s perfectly serviceable and has some good messages around selflessness and interpersonal relationships. But it’s also generic and poorly paced, which doesn’t allow it to move past the mid-tier of children’s animation. Parents should be aware that fantasy violence is present throughout the film, and some of the demons could be scary for very young or sensitive viewers. The demons won’t scare adults – but the prospect of spending 90 minutes watching yet more uninspiring kids’ movies just might.Directed by Anthony Stacchi. Starring Stephanie Hsu, Jimmy O. Yang, BD Wong. Running time: 92 minutes. Theatrical release August 18, 2023. Updated August 18, 2023
Watch the trailer for The Monkey King
The Monkey King
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Monkey King rated PG? The Monkey King is rated PG by the MPAA for action/violence and brief thematic material.
Violence: There is fantasy violence throughout. Characters battle with magic and sticks as well as martial arts.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: Characters use some mild insults such as “dimwit” and “idiot”. The word “Hell” is used multiple times but as the name of a place, not as an expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is a brief reference to getting “hammered”. Characters accidently ingest poisoned fruit which causes them to act loopy.
Page last updated August 18, 2023
The Monkey King Parents' Guide
How does Monkey King relate to the people around him and how do his actions contribute to or solve his problems? What does he learn from Lin and Buddha about his outlook on life?
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