When I think of Stephen Chow I think of Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer, or King of the Beggars. So it was with eager anticipation that I looked forward to his latest Journey to the West.
Now Journey to the West is one of the great classical novels of China and has been made multiple times into both films and television shows. My first exposure to the story was the movie Alakazam the Great! when I was a child. So I looked forward to the quirky spin that Stephen Chow would place on this story.
Tang Sanzang is a Buddhist demon hunter/monk that is a failure, everything he tries doesn’t work. What’s more there is Miss Duan who is an accomplished demon hunter who keeps mopping up all his messes and is trying to get him interested in her. Something he can’t do as a potential Buddhist monk. In frustration he goes to his master for help who directs him to the Monkey King who has been bound by Buddha in a underground cave sealed by a lotus flower. There he battles the Monkey King who kills Miss Duan (Tang confesses his love for her as she dies) defeats him by reading a Buddhist sutra and attains enlightenment at the same time. He then journeys to the west to bring back the Buddhist sutras from India.
I really wanted to like this I was in the mood for the quirky kung fu antics that Chow has always brought to his movies. And they were there. But something was missing there wasn’t that zing, that je ne sais quoi that he had brought to his other films. I don’t know if it is the lack of chemistry between the male and female leads. Or how the story seems a bit slapped together. But I was just disappointed by this effort.
This film has martial arts violence, a child eaten by a demon fish, a pig demon that uses people for food. There is a scene where a guy is nude but nothing is exposed. Some of the demon scenes maybe too much for kids but this isn’t a typical Asian horror movie that will keep them up all night worried about the upside down ghost with the long black hair. No there is a definite comedy aspect to this film just not enough of one.
I give Journey to the West two and a half stars out of five.