Loosely based on a well-known Chinese folk myth, this Chinese animated movie tells the story of Ne Zha (voice of Yanting Lü), the son of military commander Li Jing (voiced by Hao Chen) and his wife Lady Yin (voiced by Qi Lu).
To prevent chaos taking over the universe, the King of Heaven has split the ‘Chaos Pearl’ into two parts, the ‘spirit pearl’, and the ‘demon pearl’. The guardian Taiyi (voiced by Jiaming Zhang) has been sworn to watch over the pearls. The plan is for the spirit pearl to be linked to the birth of Commander Li’s unborn child and for the demon pearl to be guarded for three years until the prophecy is fulfilled and it is destroyed by lightning. Unfortunately, the jealous Shen Gongbao (voiced by Wei Yang), who was hoping for a promotion from the King of Heaven, sabotages this plan. He steals the spirit pearl and ensures the demon pearl is connected to the child instead.
Ne Zha is born as a demon child and the villagers are terrified of him. Seeing the good in him, Ne Zha’s mother begs the villagers to spare his life. Ne Zha’s father promises to protect the villagers from the child, keeping him locked away and journeying to the Kingdom of Heaven to break the curse. Ne Zha’s mother devotes herself to making Ne Zha’s time as happy as possible but she is often called away to duty. This means Ne Zha is left to his own devices, which often involves escaping his home and terrifying the villagers.
Meanwhile Shen Gongbao has taken the spirit pearl to dragons that are chained in a watery prison. Here the spirit pearl is linked to a dragon egg, which becomes the character Ao Bing (voiced by Mo Han). Shen Gongbao hopes Ao Bing will free the dragons to rule. Ne Zha and Ao Bing meet and form an unlikely friendship, the outcome of which surprises everyone.
Good versus evil; the role of destiny; disobedience to parents; disrespect of authority; loneliness; fate and curses; demons; destruction; ostracism; emotional distress
Ne Zha has some violence, although violence generally isn’t glorified in this movie. In fact, Ne Zha’s parents and his heavenly teacher try to stop him from being violent. Here are some examples:
- The movie does contain frequent animated violence. Characters punch, kick, throw and attack each other. They do martial arts moves. They fall through roofs and out of trees, and rocks fall on their heads. They’re crushed into walls, flung through the air, set on fire, stabbed, petrified and restrained against their wills. They dodge knives and spears. One man is smacked with a mallet, and another character is repeatedly punched in the stomach until he vomits.
- Ne Zha punches his mother into a wall accidentally and then does the same thing to two guards.
- Ne Zha creates damage whenever he’s near the village, destroying it with either fire or water or just damaging things on his way through.
- Ne Zha hits a man for calling him a demon. A woman smacks him with a shovel, and Ne Zha begins to attack all the villagers.
- Ne Zha kicks a tray of food, which hits a servant in the face.
- Ne Zha battles Ao Bing and nearly stabs and kills his father.
- Characters get hurt, but no death or blood is shown.
- Ne Zha’s violent behaviour is mischievous. He likes to prank and scare people, but he also suffers the consequences of his behaviour. He has no friends and gets upset when he’s called ‘demon’.
- Ne Zha tries to fight his fate of being evil and violent, and he’s ready to sacrifice his life to save his loved ones.
- A lot of the violence is presented in the context of the fight between good and evil.
Ne Zha has some sexual references. For example, a woman is shown in painful labour.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Ne Zha shows some use of alcohol. For example, Taiyi has a reputation for liking to drink. Shen Gongbao gets him drunk by leaving a huge container of wine near him on the eve of Ne Zha’s birth.
Nudity and sexual activity
Ne Zha has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Taiyi wears a robe that often exposes his bare chest.
- Ne Zha occasionally walks around with his hands in his pants.
- Ne Zha takes off his pants and urinates on a rock. Nothing explicit is shown.
There is no product placement in Ne Zha.
There is some coarse language, name-calling and insults in Ne Zha.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Ne Zha is a dazzling and fast-paced spectacle featuring world-class animation and a gripping soundtrack. The story is captivating and inspiring and contains valuable underlying messages and positive role models. In Mandarin with English subtitles, the movie will appeal to fans of Chinese legends and older audiences who can read fast and follow along.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- You make your own destiny.
- You shouldn’t do bad things simply for your own advancement.
- Misunderstandings, if left unchecked, can easily spiral out of control.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include compassion, communication, kindness, understanding, hope, self-determination, parental unconditional love, family cohesion and loyalty, individual potential, resilience, friendship, sacrifice and forgiveness.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- the importance of listening to parents or people in authority and the consequences when you don’t
- honesty and open communication even you’re dealing with a difficult topic
- bullying, ostracising, lack of tolerance and understanding, and hurtful behaviour arising from differences
- the risks of making quick and inaccurate assumptions about other people
- bad, violent behaviour and using violence as a means to solve problems
- excessive drinking
- selfishness, greed and envy.