Last summer, the movie “Monster Hunt” became a monster hit . . . in China. Now the family-friendly fantasy is making its way to the United States in search of further success, but it probably will fall short of world domination.
The movie blends live action and animation with a story that takes place in an alternate version of medieval China in which monsters and humans — two species that once coexisted peacefully — have settled into a more precarious truce. The humans inhabit most of the Earth, while the monsters live hidden away in the mountains. But a coup in the monster kingdom sends the pregnant queen into the human realm. There, she entrusts a hapless young man, Song Tianyin (Boran Jing), with her baby. To be more precise, she impregnates him. This sends him on an adventure alongside the tough-as-nails monster hunter Huo Xiaolan (Baihe Bai) to — well, what exactly? It’s complicated and not always clear, but one thing is certain: Many people want to get their hands on the baby monster growing inside of Tianyin’s ever-expanding belly.
Director Raman Hui honed his animation craft at DreamWorks, designing characters for “Antz” and working on the “Shrek” franchise, including co-directing the third installment. So the man knows how to bring fanciful creatures to the big screen. The baby king, once he’s born (mercifully through Tianyin’s mouth), makes the biggest impression, with huge brown eyes, a body like a turnip and a head covered in mossy greenery. Computer-generated images also add to the substantial action, whether it’s a fireball that chases the protagonists or a cyclone that imprisons them in mid-air.
It’s hard to imagine that screenwriter Alan Yuen’s overly complicated story could hold the attention of kids. That’s probably why jokes about bodily functions are sprinkled throughout. Children will no doubt also giggle at the image of a pregnant man.
Their grown-up companions, however, might be less amused with this import. “Monster Hunt” has visual appeal to spare, but the allure ends there.
Unrated. At Cinemark Egyptian 24 and Regal Rockville Center Stadium 13. Contains crude humor and cartoonish violence. In Mandarin and, er, Monster with subtitles. (The version of the film at Regal Rockville Center is dubbed in English.) 111 minutes.