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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 Lybarger

"You’d have to be as stiff as the Jade Warrior not to enjoy this."
4 stars

Like most fans of martial arts movies, I was elated when I heard that martial artistes Jackie Chan and Jet Li were finally going to team up in a movie dubbed 'The Forbidden Kingdom.' I quickly became disappointed when I learned the film was going to be shot in English with an American director, Rob Minkoff of 'Stuart Little' fame. Fortunately, Minkoff has one talent many of his American predecessors have lacked: When Chan or Li is fighting, he knows how to hold the camera still.

From listening to “Hidalgo” screenwriter John Fusco’s dialogue (for once, the name dropping is appropriate), it’s obvious that he and Minkoff have actually bothered to watch Chan and Li’s Hong Kong movies and to learn how they work. Yes, the dialogue sounds as if was pasted from dozens of fortune cookies, but at least he saved plenty of time for punching and kicking.

The framing story is serviceable, but it gives the two veteran stars plenty of room to move, both physically and dramatically.

The two are so much fun together, that it’s easy to overlook the fact that they’re playing supporting roles, albeit major ones. Apparently figuring Stateside viewers still need some introduction to ancient China, Fusco has centered the tale around a young misfit named Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano).

Jason is a high-schooler who lives with him mother in Boston and spends all of his spare time combing through a pawn shop that features kung fu bootlegs no Blockbuster Video would ever dare stock.

Jason can describe the movies in minute detail and can name all the moves combatants use in them. He just can’t fight himself.

A group of local thugs bully Jason into helping them rob the pawn shop’s geriatric owner (Chan under a ton of makeup). When the heist goes bad, Jason draws an old wooden staff to defend himself and the proprietor against the thieves.

The staff sends him back to China to deliver it back to its rightful owner, a mischievous and supernaturally athletic warrior named “The Monkey King” (Jet Li).

To say Jason is ill-suited for the task, is an understatement. The lad has no kung fu skills and initially can’t speak Chinese. Fortunately, he quickly becomes aligned with a quick-punching drunk named Lu Yan (Chan again), a beautiful but lethal musician (Yeife Liu) and a monk (Li), who is as taciturn as Lu Yan is garrulous.

With their dual roles and the chance to tweak their old personas, Chan and Li expectedly dominate the film. It’s refreshing to see Chan finally playing a character that’s within throwing distance of his own 55 years (Lu Yan, not the shop keeper). Li gets to demonstrate some comedic chops he hasn’t had the opportunity to use in his previous films. He has a ball imitating monkeys and as the monk, he proves a fine counterpoint to Chan.

The main reason to see these two paired, however, is for them to fight. Thankfully, the action has been coordinated by wire-fu master Yuen Woo-ping (“The Matrix,” “Kill Bill”). Thanks to some gorgeous scenery, it’s easy to forgive scenes that might seem a little too familiar.

I have no quibble with Fusco and Minkoff making the tale somewhat more family-friendly. It might just whet a viewer’s appetite for some of Chan and Li’s better efforts like “Police Story III: Supercop” or “Once Upon a Time in China.”

What is disappointing about “The Forbidden Kingdom” is that the hero and the villains are lackluster. Chan and Li easily upstage Angarano and Deshun Wang, who plays the antagonist known as the Jade Emperor. With a stronger bad guy, the film’s story would have a lot more tension. Instead, it drags a bit until the next martial arts showdown.

Nonetheless, “The Forbidden Kingdom” still seems to have its heart in the right place. Fusco and Minkoff know they’re dealing with masters of the genre and treat Chan and Li with the respect that they’ve earned. After seeing their talents squandered in movies like “The Medallion” and “The One,” it’s a pleasure to see them presented properly here.

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originally posted: 04/28/08 02:31:49
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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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