‘The Monkey King’ (2023) Summary & Review: An Adventurous Kids Movie That Keeps You Hooked

You know Jimmy O. Yang as the Hong Kong comedian with a few specials on Netflix. Now get ready to hear him voice a rather annoyingly confident monkey with supernatural powers in Anthony Stacci’s The Monkey King. When a baby monkey lands on earth from the heavens, he’s told he’ll never have a family or anyone to call his own. Monkey grows up to be the ‘King’ and, on the path, finds the companionship of a magic stick.

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Spoilers Ahead


Who Is Monkey?

In a palace in the heavens, the Jade Emperor is busy planning his mighty feast when there’s a lot of chaos downstairs on Earth. Apparently, a baby monkey that fell from the skies in a rocky egg is shooting lasers from his eyes and wreaking havoc, scaring the other simian children. The Jade Emperor is about to unleash his might on this annoying child when Buddha Himself peers down from His abode and forbids the Emperor to disrupt the monkey because he’s going to find his own path. The monkey grows up practicing throwing coconuts at a made-up target while being told he’ll never be a part of any family or have anyone close to him.

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How Does Monkey Get The Magic Stick?

Monkey grows up into a cocky and narcissistic young ape, still throwing coconuts, and when another baby primate is seized by a ferocious demon that lives behind a waterfall, he plans to take action. Monkey dives to the bottom of the sea, where he finds a massive glowing staff reaching for the heavens, which apparently speaks to the ape. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a Dragon King (Bowen Yang), who plans to use the stick to go on world dominance, but Monkey steals the staff.

Armed with the magic rod, Monkey defeats the demon and is then told that to be noticed by the immortals, he needs to defeat 100 demons. Thus begins his journey to defeat multiple foes until he reaches a desolate town, where the Red Demon is about to eat a child. Here, he meets a young girl named Lin (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport), who pleads with him to make her a part of his team. Monkey begrudgingly accepts, and Lin starts tagging along with the ‘King,’ who’s on a mission to be noticed by the immortals.

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Why Does The Monkey Go To Hell?

Monkey learns that to become immortal, he needs to remove his name from the list that contains his time of death, and he goes down to Hell with Lin. There, he’s faced with the Hell King Yama, who puts up a tough battle, but using his clones, Monkey succeeds in striking his name off and also grabbing a book that contains the details to achieve pure immortality.


What Is Lin’s Secret?

From the book, Monkey learns that by eating the holy peach, he can gain immortality, and when he’s not around, Lin summons the Dragon King. As it turns out, Lin had a selfish reason to seek Monkey’s companionship: her village was dying of famine, and she prayed to the Dragon King for rain. He’d demanded that Lin befriend Monkey and steal the stick, and in return, he’d bring rain to her village.

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The Dragon King puts sleeping pills in a peach tree to put Monkey to sleep, but ends up ingesting the fruits hilariously, along with Monkey.

The duo then go to the heaven queen Wangmu’s palace, and Lin tries walking away with the stick, but she can’t abandon the ape. She returns and prepares the immortality elixir for Monkey and feeds it to him, making him virtually immortal. Having defeated Wangmu and gained immortality, they return to earth, where Lin challenges Monkey to hold his breath underwater as she hands over the stick to the Dragon King’s crew.


How Does The Dragon King Thank Lin?

Having gained the stick, the Dragon chooses to thank Lin by planning to destroy the land completely with a massive tsunami. Having been mocked his entire life for his skin condition, Dragon will be avenging the insult by killing all the land creatures, and he prepares a massive storm to wipe out all land. However, Lin vows to help Monkey and asks Dragon to electrocute the ape (an ability that only helps Monkey grow bigger and stronger), and lo and behold, Monkey grows to a massive size. He stomps Dragon into a tiny lizard and plans to rule the entire heaven when Buddha comes down to earth.


What Challenge Does Buddha Offer The Monkey?

Buddha picks the humongous monkey into the palm of his hand, where he’s the mere pebble he’d called everyone else. Buddha challenges the ‘King’ to jump off His hand, and if he succeeds, he can rule the heavens. The monkey leaps off and reaches the very edge of the universe, marking it with an X, but when Buddha calls him back, the ape finds that the X is merely on Buddha’s finger.

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Now, Monkey needs to be punished for his arrogance, and he’s put inside a cave to seek penance. Sometime later, Lin visits Monkey in the cave and hands him the stick that she’d kept with her, and thus begins Monkey’s penance.


Does Monkey Gain Humility?

Five hundred years go by when the cave is reopened by some men. They call upon Monkey to help them as evil is running rampant through the country, so Buddha has asked them to seek Monkey’s aid. The ape is a changed being now, with deep asceticism on his face. However, when offered a fight, he immediately jumps back into the game, ready to rock with his trusted stick in hand.

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Review

The Monkey King is bound to make you recall the animated franchise Kung-Fu Panda, and in some ways, both the protagonists are similar in a lot of ways. Both Po (Kung-Fu Panda) and Monkey go through big adventures, trying to seek greatness and, in the process, find themselves. However, The Monkey King lacks the depth of the story that its predecessor offered. The plot of this movie, no matter how interesting, feels one-dimensional, with the sole focus being the monkey’s fight with the dragon. Surely, there could’ve been a little more focus on the character development of Monkey for the duration of the movie instead of saving it for the very last minutes.

The animation is definitely one of the highlights of The Monkey King, with the fight scenes between the hero and the villain being presented with brilliant details. Special mention should be made for the scene where Monkey travels through space and reaches the universe’s edge because that’s an explosion of colors that can awe any human mind. Additionally, the song by Dragon King is hands-down the highlight among the music used in the film; it’s catchy as well as hilarious.

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The Monkey King is meant for kids, and the themes are kept especially plain so that they can be enjoyed by people of all ages. However, the animation, story, final battle, and, of course, Monkey’s cheeky attitude are bound to keep you entertained for the entire 95-minute runtime.


Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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The Monkey King is meant for kids, and the themes are kept especially plain so that they can be enjoyed by people of all ages.'The Monkey King' (2023) Summary & Review: An Adventurous Kids Movie That Keeps You Hooked