Netflix’s The Monkey King REVIEW – Monkey See, Monkey Do

Netflix The Monkey King
Netflix The Monkey King

Centering around a monkey who calls himself the Monkey King and ventures with his magic stick and a girl named Lin in order to become one of the Immortal Ones, The Monkey King is a mostly lackluster film that’s seemingly bored with its own story, just flatly going through the motions of its screenplay. The only thing it really has going for it is its animation, which really is gorgeous at times.

However, there’s a difference between good-looking visuals and fun ones, and The Monkey King’s visually fun moments are far too few and far between to add up to an interesting experience. There’s some creative camera work and one montage where they switch to a different animation style, but for the most part, the 3D animation, while pretty and well-rendered, gets lost in the sea of other animated films that look just like it.

The Monkey King’s screenplay isn’t too unique, either. So many of its character arcs and plot points have been done before and better, and the entire time I was watching, I kept being reminded of animated films that came before it.

Monkey King not fitting in with the other monkeys reminded me of Tarzan, his longing for a family of Lilo and Stitch, his quest to prove himself and his little girl sidekick of Wreck-it Ralph, and his relationship with Stick of Frozen’s Kristoff and Sven. It’s all incredibly familiar stuff and you can see certain events coming from a mile away.

Even if it wasn’t reminiscent of other animated films, this movie’s screenplay would still feel notably by-the-numbers, as several plot points and character decisions happen not because of natural progression but because the screenplay needed them to happen. This, of course, lends itself to a cast of uninteresting characters, ones you’re bored to be spending an hour and a half with.

None of them are especially irritating or unlikable, sure, but they aren’t well-written or three-dimensional either, their thoughts and actions dictated by what’s needed for the plot. You don’t sympathize or root for any of the good guys, and you don’t hate or have fun with any of the villains.

At the very least, Bowen Yang seems to be having plenty of fun as the voice of Dragon King, but his comedic skills are put to waste as his character is given nothing funny to say. Not that there aren’t any jokes in The Monkey King — they’re just really bad ones, heavily relying on uninventive sarcasm and characters acting in rather harebrained ways.

It’s no new observation to state that the Netflix library is often quantity over quality when it comes to its originals, and The Monkey King is another addition to that ever-growing “quantity” list. It’s hard to imagine many going ape over this movie, or even remembering it a few months or so from now when it eventually gets lost in another avalanche of Netflix original titles.

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Netflix The Monkey King
It’s a jungle out there for family-friendly animated titles, and The Monkey King isn’t distinct or well-written enough to stand out from the crowd, resulting in a largely forgettable and unremarkable time.