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Ne Zha (2019)

This weekend I had the pleasure of watching the newest hit from China, an animated big-budget movie from Chengdu Coco Cartoons called Ne Zha and upon watching it, it's very easy to see why it's a big hit.

And when I say big hit, I'm not kidding. It's made more than $700 million in its home country making it the biggest ever animated film in China. That's more than Incredibles 2 made in the US, and it has broken all sorts of records. It's currently at number 9 on the top-grossing films at the worldwide box-office for the year.

Ne Zha is basically like a Marvel movie in which I mean it follows the formula with a lot of comedy and a meta-human action scenes at the end. So if you like that formula Disney has been giving us for the last decade then you should like this. Many of the jokes do land but because this is a cartoon many of the characters are overly comic! Even when they really don't need to be- for example, the antagonist of the film has a weird stutter that's played for laughs. The villain shouldn't be played comedically, he needs to be seen as a serious threat at all times.

And that's the movie's problem, the comedy acts as a double edge sword. Yeah, I did laugh but it is hard to take this movie's dramatic scenes with any weight if everybody is basically a clown.

And there are some serious points in this movie. So the plot of this movie, a baby is possed by an evil spirit and becomes a demon (or half-demon?) with tremendous power and his parents decide against the towns wishes to raise him and not kill him. So the town ostracized him and made him feel like an outcast so he, in turn,  decides to act out. And the film attempts to answer the question, can nurture overcome nature.

Not something new, similar plots can be found in: The Omen, Blue Exorcist, and of course a little anime called Naruto. Come to think about it ... this movie is very close to Naruto where the boy is possed by a demonic entity, grows up pretty much alone because everyone is scared of him and he acts out because of that. If people aren't going to see him as anything more then a trouble-maker why shouldn't he live up to it?

Using these two formulas, it's no wonder Ne Zha was such a hit. The animation was also pretty awesome ... maybe even Pixar level. The last Chinese film I watched had only a budget of 16 million: The Monkey King: Hero Is Back featuring Jackie Chan. The animation in this film looks like they spent a good 100 million or more on it. Coupled with the fact that the fight scenes are gorgeously done. 

The movie has you from scene one and it moves really fast after that ... only towards the end does it get too long and by that I mean the battle scene is really long. I felt the movie drag a bit towards the end. Maybe it was because I knew how these PG-13 fast-paced action anime scenes usually end. Good guys win and the bad guys lose ... just get to it, already. But I suppose if you're a kid then you want to keep it up for as long as possible but other then that this movie is pretty much nails the landing.

So yeah, I had a really good experience with this movie and they tease a sequel ... I hope I get to see it. My guess is is that it depends on how this movie does in the States ... with no advertising whatsoever. My theater was packed with Asian people in it so the word must be getting out there somehow, unfortunately, there weren't too many people from other ethnicities in that screening with me.


IN A NUTSHELL: This movie has tons of comedy and action - It's a Chinese cartoon fantasy adventure anyone can enjoy!