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.
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.
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.