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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.03%
Worth A Look51.52%
Average: 6.06%
Pretty Bad: 21.21%
Total Crap: 18.18%

9 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Forbidden Kingdom, The
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by Jason Whyte

"Chan and Li kick. It funny!"
4 stars

“The Forbidden Kingdom” has an odd kind of charm to it. It’s a balance between the wire-fu films of past and the crazy comedies that Jackie Chan is up to these days. Don’t let this mistake you for a Crouching Tiger or Hero retelling, rather this is a mostly English language, American movie with a bunch of Eastern sensibilities thrown in for good measure. The film is merely passable entertainment; it has a good pacing to it, some good direction and I was never bored by it.

As the film opens, Michael Angranano is a shy, introverted high-schooler who has a friendship with a Chinese storekeeper (played by a barely noticeable Jackie Chan, decked out in makeup and oily hair). He likes to buy his bootleg DVD’s – Enter The Dragon is one of them, which is odd because I can find that one in the Wal-Mart bin for $5 -- and visit with the old man from time to time, and also has problems with the school bullies.

The device that transports him to the past is kind of ridiculous, but once we are there the movie begins to pick up a lot of steam. Turns out Angranano holds a staff that is the key to an entire kingdom, and naturally a bunch of bad guys want it. The kid meets up with Jet Li and a much younger Chan, who decide that the only way the kid is going to survive is to learn a few martial arts. The scenes with Angranano training with Chan and Li -- it is simply cool to see them in the same frame together -- are a lot of fun.

These kinds of parts fit like a glove for our two ass kicking leads, and they are perfectly suited to the material. Chan has his usual flair for comic timing on hand, so I am assuming he was saving it up from the dreadful “Rush Hour 3” for this picture. As for Jet Li, he needs to work on his English a bit more, but is still quite effective. And Michael Angranano, so good in “Sky High” and “One Last Thing…” here is quite apt at playing the American kid who has to learn to fight.

Of all the people that could have directed this East-Meets-West adventure, the film was made by Rob Minkoff, who directed “Stuart Little” nine years ago and is also responsible for a few Disney animated films. Minkoff does a pretty good job at balancing out the Chinese fairytale along with the modern setting, although the scenes with the kid getting aggressively bullied was a little ridiculous. Still, Minkoff is aided by Yuen-Woo Ping’s awesome fight choreography along with beautiful cinematography by Peter Pau (“Crouching Tiger”). If I have a caveat, it is some of the ugly, garish costumes remind me a bit too much of Chen Kaige’s “The Promise”, a terrible disaster of a Wuxia film from a few years ago, but since I’ve seen this film and its disastrous response over here means you probably haven’t, it is a minor complaint at best.

“The Forbidden Kingdom” is mostly being marketed to kids, but it should be noted that this adventure might be a little too intense for younger ones, as there is some rough fighting, bloodletting and severe (if a bit over the top) bullying. Older kids at my advance screening seemed to enjoy it very much, and I’m sure the sight of Jackie Chan and Jet Li will be enough for the price of admission. I could have done without the silly bookends and those previously mentioned costumes, but this is still a worthwhile night out at the movies.

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originally posted: 08/24/08 16:42:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/08/12 KingNeutron A bit stylized and slow-moving, but decent 4 stars
10/01/09 Sugarfoot More Chan/Li and less of the teeny bopper bullshit 2 stars
4/07/09 Chuck Great movie! Full of action 5 stars
1/27/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
9/10/08 action movie fan silly stuff-waste of chan,s and jet li,s talent-really dull story 2 stars
6/05/08 Jayson Li and Chan together and I still got disappointed. 3 stars
4/29/08 Ole Man Bourbon Good but ran a little too long 3 stars
4/28/08 Margaret Haines Great entertainment. Wonderful fight scenes. J&J show they can act, too. I loved it. 5 stars
4/28/08 Christy good plot line, not real indepth, great old school martial arts action 4 stars
4/21/08 damalc not terribly original, but action scenes are gold 4 stars
4/19/08 Renee It was pretty good, I will see again 3 stars
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  18-Apr-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Sep-2008



Directed by
  Rob Minkoff

Written by
  John Fusco

  Jackie Chan
  Jet Li
  Michael Angarano
  Yifei Liu
  Collin Chou
  Morgan Benoit

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