The Monkey King (2023) – Review and Summary

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“The Monkey King” is like its title character: a whole lot of style with very little substance.


General Information

Director(s) Anthony Stacchi
Screenplay By Steve BencichRon J. Friedman,  Rita Hsiao
Based On “Journey to the West” 16th-century story
Date Released (Netflix) August 18, 2023
Genre(s) Animation
Film Length 1 Hour, 32  Minutes
Content Rating Rated PG
Noted Characters and Cast
The Monkey King Jimmy O. Yang
The Dragon King Bowen Yang
Lin Jolie Hoang-Rappaport

What Is “The Monkey King” Rated And Why?

“The Monkey King” is Rated PG due to action and cartoon violence. 

Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

“The Monkey King” is all about the Monkey King (voiced by Jimmy O. Yang), a character so narcissistic that he would love the title of this movie. Since he was a baby, the Monkey King has gone after whatever he wanted and has often succeeded. He fights demons with ease, jumps into quests without care, and always has time to praise his accomplishments. When Monkey gains possession of a magic stick that heightens his powers, he chases a new dream to get immortality.

Little does the Monkey King know, but the Dragon King (Bowen Yang) is also after the same magic stick. The Dragon King is theatrical and malicious, and he uses his henchmen to try to steal the stick to gain world dominance.

As they chase the Monkey King, Monkey partners with his first assistant to help him on a quest. While he treats Lin (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport) as a servant, Lin is smarter than Monkey and teaches him that sometimes, in order to succeed, you need help from others who are just as valuable as you.

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THE MONKEY KING – (L-R) MONKEY KING (Jimmy O. Yang) and LIN (voiced by Jolie Hoang-Rappaport). Cr: Netflix © 2023

“The Monkey King” is a high-energy popcorn ride that bursts with color and races from scene to scene. If it stops to let viewers reflect on its message or animation, you might just appreciate what’s being shown. But like the Monkey King himself, the story is constantly occupied with what happens next and has the attention span of a fly. Kids may find “The Monkey King” fun, but be warned: with a protagonist that learns nothing, don’t expect audiences to learn anything either.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

The Monkey King

A courageous yet conceited adventurer who confronts any problem without fear or care in him. While the Monkey King throws himself into danger, he also loves to celebrate himself and can be incredibly selfish.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Love Hard,” their role in “Silicon Valley,” and their role in “Fantasy Island.”

The Dragon King

The Dragon King is a diva villain that wishes to take over the world, but not before throwing some sass onto whoever his next victim or nemesis may be. Arguably the most fun character in “The Monkey King,” the Dragon King also wishes to possess the magical stick for world dominance.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Saturday Night Live,” their role in “Fire Island,” and their role in “Bros.”

Lin

Lin admires the Monkey King, but the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes his flaws. As Monkey’s main foil, Lin is selfless and usually looks out for what’s best for her village.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Head of the Class,” their role in “The Watchmen,” and their role in “Just Add Magic: Mystery City.”

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive) 

Who Is This For?

Kids and families might enjoy “The Monkey King.” Asian families may especially find “The Monkey King” intriguing since the movie is based on a 16th-century Asian story and features an all-Asian voice cast.

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The Dragon King (Bowen Yang) threatens the Monkey King (Bowen Yang) in “The Monkey King” (directed by Anthony Stacchi, 2023)

Highlights

Gorgeous Animated Backgrounds in Each Frame

“The Monkey King” takes us through humble homes, through spirit worlds, and even through hell. The team at Tangent Animation creates lovely spaces of ghostly landscapes and 16th-century architecture as the cartoons bounce in the foreground. The movie may move quickly, but if you pause any scene, you will certainly find a detail to appreciate in each frame.

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On The Fence

A Difficult Protagonist to Watch for 90 Minutes 

The Monkey King is meant to be charming in his narcissism. He’s supposed to be fun and arrogant, like a child. While the selfish protagonist is a common trope in comedy movies, “The Monkey King” shows no growth for its title character for 95% of the movie. So his praise for himself becomes repetitive and exhausting to listen to, especially since there’s no contrast in his self-esteem vs. his actions (for example, a character who thinks highly of their combat skills but is really bad in battle). The Monkey King’s consistent selfish behavior can easily make him the villain.

Frenzied Pace Jumps from One Action Scene to the Next

“The Monkey King” throws so much crap at the walls that it figures something has to stick. For every song, joke, and fist that flies, you may enjoy one of those, but they all happen at the same time, and the pace is enough to give any adult a headache. Since the Monkey King arguably learns nothing by the end of the movie, one might leave this movie thinking that a bunch of stuff happened for no reason at all.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
  2. The Super Mario Bros Movie
  3. American-Born Chinese

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

FAQs

Answers to some questions you may have regarding this movie:

The Reason The Movie Is Named “The Monkey King”

“The Monkey King” is the name of the title character.

Does “The Monkey King” Setup A Sequel or Prequel?

Yes, The Monkey King is trapped for 500 years,  but the movie reveals at the very end that the Monkey King is waiting to be called into action once more.


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