Journey to the West is based on one of the greatest classical novels of Chinese literature of the same name. The books detail the monk Xuanzang (Zhang Wen) as he endures many trials and tribulations to prepare to travel to western Asia (India) to retrieve some sacred Buddha writings, but Journey to the West is more of a comedic preamble to the journey itself. Xuanzang is unsure and disenchanted with his 'nursery rhymes' demon hunting abilities after Miss Duan (Qi Shu) who's a more aggressive and physically capable demon hunter mocks his skills.
Xuanzang presses on and seeks a meal at a restaurant when he realizes that the patrons are an illusion put on by the pig king (Bingqiang Chen), but Miss Duan arrives to fight the pig king and inadvertently saves Xuanzang, although they're forced to withdraw in the melee. Miss Duan finds herself smitten with Xuanzang, despite his lack of any real demon vanquishing abilities, she sees his courage and selflessness in the face of danger and goes about trying to woo Xuanzang in a comedy of errors.
Xuanzang is later advised by his ultra lax mentor to go find the legendary monkey king who was banished to an Earthly prison after he rejected and challenged Buddha. Can Xuanzang find, and more importantly, can he control or conquer these three immensely powerful demons to accompany him on his quest to the west, and perhaps these demons can find some sort of redemption for themselves by doing some good along the way.
Stephen Chow (director) brings his trademark sense of exaggerated physical comedy and martial arts mysticism to Journey to the West, although it's no Kung Fu Hustle (I want a sequel damn it!), but it is more fantastical and mythical than Kung Fu Hustle was. It's weird, it's wonderful and it's a fun take on some Chinese folklore and mythology that's 'kind of' in the same vein as Kung Fu Hustle. The action and choreography is somewhat unconventional and heavily stylized, but it works given the storybook vibe of the movie. Miss Duan steals the show as the affable and determined demon hunter though, Qi Shu definitely shows that she has some good comedic timing.
The demons are brought to life well and the monkey king is a mean bastard and is easily the most powerful among the three of them, he's not the most cooperative one either, hence he has to be controlled. The cgi is not the greatest, but I think the budget was minimal for this sort of movie, so I wouldn't hold that against it. I see some people suggesting Stephen Chow for a Dragon Ball adaption and I can see that working out quite nicely, not so much for a Dragon Ball Z adaption I don't think, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are two different beasts. I had a lot of fun with this movie, even though it's not particularly ground-breaking in any way, it's just a fun, dramatic and occasionally sad romp through popularized Chinese fables. Admittedly it does get a bit weird every now and again, but that's part of the fun of the movie!
Written by - The Sentry - 10/12/2015