Review: MONSTER HUNT 2, Tony Leung and Wuba for the Win
Raman Hui directs Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Bai Baihe, Jing Boran, Yo Yang, Da Peng and Chris Lee.
Wuba, the radish-shaped heir to the monster throne, is in trouble again, but this time Tony Leung Chiu Wai is on hand to protect him in Raman Hui’s big budget sequel, Monster Hunt 2. Bai Baihe and Jing Boran reprise their roles as Wuba’s adoptive human parents, with their reunion proving the ultimate goal in this family-focused fantasy adventure.
After making a name for himself at DreamWorks, Hong Kong native Raman Hui returned home to helm his first feature length film, an ambitious blend of period live-action and cutting-edge CG effects. Monster Hunt, released in the summer of 2015, proved a smash hit, especially in mainland China, where it grossed over RMB1 Billion in just over a week. Strategically targeting the Chinese New Year holiday, Monster Hunt 2 looks set to repeat that success and be one of the biggest moneymakers of 2018.
On the run once again from the Evil Monster King, Wuba meets a protective monster named Benben, secret sidekick of compulsive gambler Tu (Leung). With significant debts hanging over his head, Tu initially plans to hand over Wuba to Lady Zhu (Chris Lee), but after spending some time with the tentacled little tyke, he warms to him and instead becomes Wuba's protector.
Meanwhile, Xiaolan (Bai) and Tianyin (Jing) are looking to further their careers as monster hunters, and head for the Monster Hunters Bureau, where Tianyin’s missing father was once a notable member. They soon discover that MHB Agent Brother Yun (Yo Yang) is also searching for Wuba, insisting that the undocumented monster must stand trial if he is to remain in the Human World. Sensing that their ward is in danger once again, Xiaolan and Tianyin go after him, and all parties converge in Clear Water Town.
Featuring the same top-drawer effects work as its predecessor, Monster Hunt 2 strikes a far more consistent tone this time around. The simplified narrative allows more time for broad belly laughs and indulging Wuba’s too-cute antics. Suffice to say, fans of fart and pee jokes will not be left wanting. There are fun little details along the way, such as how Benben drives Tu’s car Flinstones’ style, or how anyone Wuba spits on can see through his eyes whenever the little monster screams. There’s also a scene-stealing cameo from Da Peng, as an oddly seductive weapons designer with a crippling crush on Xiaolan.
Most surprising, however, is Tony Leung, and how committed he is to a role he could so easily have phoned in. While Tu's character arc will hardly surprise anyone, Leung brings his effortless charisma to this flawed shyster. Acting the majority of his scenes opposite CGI characters that were added later, Leung is never less than wholly invested, even making you forget that half the time he’s onscreen, Tu is wearing a pantomime tiger costume. One can only hope that Monster Hunt 2 encourages the celebrated 55-year-old to return to doing comedy more regularly.
Boasting gorgeous visuals, A-list stars, fast-paced fantasy action, an adorable central character and enough toilet humour to make a 6-year-old blush, Monster Hunt 2 covers all the bases for a successful Chinese New Year blockbuster, catering to seemingly every possible audience demographic a single family might produce. While not a perfect film by any means, this colourful, light-hearted romp, propelled by a wholesome message about the importance of family, is quintessential holiday fare.