So, Journey to the West (full name Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, but I'm not going to call it that because it's just silly.).
I was really looking forward to watching this because I am a huge fan of Stephen Chow and him also being the director, writer and producer of this movie settled it. It was too bad that he didn't also act in the movie, a fact which I will keep as a point of reference when giving out the score at the end.
Journey to the West is a classic story which has been adapted into film on countless occasions. There have been so many adaptations that it's difficult to even keep track of them all, much less be able to compare. So there's one thing you cannot do when watching this movie; never compare it with Stephen Chow's 2-part epic A Chinese Odyssey. If you go in with the mindset that it will reach the heights of its predecessor, you're going to walk out of the cinema broken and sorely disappointed.
This version is slightly different from the usual canonical Journey to the West stuff. The film acts mainly as a prequel to the main story, but even this deviates a lot from Wu Cheng'en's original. And it's absolutely chock full of classic Stephen Chow mou lei tau humor. Being a huge fan of all his works before he disappeared from the movie circle, I was laughing my head off at quotes previously used in other Stephen Chow movies, over the top situational gags which just baffled the mind and hurt the belly, and some great performances from the likes of Shu Qi (despite her terrible, terrible Cantonese pronunciation), Wen Zhang and Huang Bo.
From L-R: Show Luo, Shu Qi, Wen Zhang and Huang Bo.
There are tons of moments which the dedicated Stephen Chow fan will be able to recognize from a host of his previous movies like Shaolin Soccer and Kungfu Hustle. It's like Stephen Chow's love letter to his fans.
Of course, the one thing about this movie is the overuse of CGI. While this may not necessarily be a bad thing, it becomes quite painful to watch after a while.
The CGI is not exactly top quality stuff, and some parts come off as being overly fake. Yes, it's a movie where a Monkey King fights with a Pig Demon who turns into a huge boar, but I still prefer watching the real humans and their interactions with each other than watching the clearly CGI monsters tear up a mountain. Also, the Monkey King just looks absolutely terrible.
After a 3 year absence, Stephen Chow's Journey to the West is a welcome breath of relief for his fans who were waiting for more of his mou lei tau humor. It may not reach the heights of Shaolin Soccer or Kungfu Hustle, but Journey to the West does hold its own as one of Stephen Chow's movies, despite him not even making an appearance. Except he did, in a special cameo scene. JENG JENG JENG.
I give this movie 3/5. It would have been better (?) if Stephen Chow was acting in it though.