The first part of Jeff Lau’s Monkey King epic is funny
in places, touching in others, but overall somewhat
messy and repetitive. Based on the classic Chinese tale
"A Journey to the West,'' this movie has the Monkey
King (Stephen Chow) banished to human form awaiting
his master, the Longevity Monk (Law Kar-Ying), to return
him to his god-like form.
Five hundred years later, the
Monkey King is reincarnated as a loser named Joker (also
Stephen Chow) who’s is plagued by two evil sisters (Yammie
Nam and Karen Mok) who’ve shown up at Joker’s desert
outpost because they have this hunch that the Monkey
King will show up there after disappearing five hundred
years ago (got all that?). Of course he shown up again,
but the two sisters wouldn't know because they only
see Joker and not the Monkey King. Not yet, anyway.
Here’s the deal: the Monkey
King stays a human until he completes the “Journey to
the West.” But, the Longevity Monk is dead, so how can
Joker find him? Simple: there’s this thing called “Pandora's
Box” which can send Joker back in time where he can
find the Longevity Monk who’ll make him a monkey again
and then together they can complete the quest. Whew.
As this is a Jeff Lau/Stephen
Chow collaboration, shtick occurs all over the place.
Most of it is funny thanks to Stephen Chow's usual delivery,
but the constant hee-haws get a little tiresome. However,
when the final act arrives and Joker gets the Pandora's
Box, the film hits overdrive. Watching Chow loop endlessly
in time trying to correct his mistakes is worth the
price of admission. Still, Part 2 is a necessity,
not an option. Otherwise you'll never know what's going
on. (Kozo 1995)