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Review: ‘Monster Hunt’ is a monstrous mess of borrowed ideas

Review: ‘Monster Hunt’ is a monstrous mess of borrowed ideas
The live-action/animated “Monster Hunt” follows the fate of the infant heir of the monster race.
(Edko Films)

Raman Hui’s live action/animation combination “Monster Hunt” broke box office records in China, but American viewers may wonder why this confused and confusing adventure-comedy enthralled audiences there.

A civil war in the monster world forces the defeated Queen to flee to the human world and entrust her child Wuba to Song Tianyin (a winning Boran Jing), the kind-hearted but put-upon mayor of a tiny village. Humans and monsters don’t get along, and Tianyin is attacked by bipolar monster-hunter Huo Xialon (a mercurial Baihe Bai). Although the mismatched pair bond as they care for Wuba, who looks like a Pokémon designed by Ray Harryhausen, Huo bullies Tianyin into taking the bounty paid for monsters, even baby monsters. When they discover a sinister villain is paying the bounty to get monsters to serve at glitzy banquets, they charge to the rescue. Whips, axes and pots fly; kung fu kicks send humans and monsters crashing through walls.

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The film careens erratically from slapstick farce to over-the-top martial arts battles, bodily function jokes, treacly sentimentality and pop production numbers by a monster chorus. Characters and plot points appear and disappear for no discernible reason. The CG animation of the monsters suffers from awkward movement and a lack of believable weight.

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Hui, who co-directed “Shrek the Third,” borrows liberally from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Shaolin Soccer,” the “Indiana Jones” films and various DreamWorks animated features. While individual sequences are genuinely entertaining, “Monster Hunt” remains considerably less than the sum of its many parts.

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Monster Hunt

No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes for Mandarin version with English subtitles; 1 hour, 44 minutes for English version.
Playing: In limited release.

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