Review of “The Forbidden Kingdom” (2008) PG-13 113min
May 16th, 2008 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 7,456 Views
Jet Lee and Jackie Chan star together in The Forbidden Kingdom, directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little I & II, Haunted Mansion) and written by John Fusco (Young Guns, The Babe, Loch Ness, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Hidalgo, and now working on the 2009 remake of The Seven Samurai).
The plot: Jason Tritipicas, a Greek (or Italian) boy from Brooklyn is a huge fan of kung-fu. One day he went to the video rental shop for his next Hong-Kong action movie and in the storage room discovered an object that sent him on adventure in Middle-Ages China. There he joins three kung-fu masters to free the Monkey King, an immortal who was transformed into a stone figure by the evil Jade Warlord.
The good: The best thing about this movie is that it made me remember what it was like to be a kid who was bullied all the time and who loved Hong Kong kung-fu movies of 60s and 70s. Jason (Michael Angarano) is just like that – if only he could master kung-fu, he’d deal with bullies, protect those who need help and become popular with girls for his bravery.
If you can accept the idea of an Italian boy from Brooklyn teleports to China, learns kung-fu and saves Monkey God from an evil warlord, the story is a lot of fun, although it’s targeted at boys around the age of 9-13. Apart from the language barrier that quickly disappears as Jason’s fantasy grows bigger and deeper, there isn’t much “West meats East” in this movie. Jet Li plays the Silent Monk and The Monkey God, and Jackie Chan plays a beggar/drunken kung-fu master. They are great together – two very different characters that complement each other as Jason’s kung-fu instructors. Jet Li is a real martial arts master and a lousy actor, but he clearly had fun playing restless and playful Monkey God.
Both Yifei Liu as Golden Sparrow, a girl left orphan by the evil Jade Warlord, and Bingbing Li as Ni Chang, the blonde witch, “the one born from volves”, were amazing and stole every scene they were in. Both very skilled in acting and fighting, all be it choreographed, and quite pretty too.
Nicely choreographed fight sequences, quite long too and there are a lot of them. Opening credits sequence sets the mood of the movie from the start – you know you can sit back and watch some nice kung-fu click where people would defie gravity and run on water or balance on the blade of a sword, while slashing people in half by the soundwaves produced by strings of their musical instruments. All of these elements we have seen before – it began from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The House Of The Flying Daggers“, with a lot of stunt work on wires and awesome CGI effects. So it’s not particularly innovative, but a great entertainment nevertheless. More fights, less talk, which makes it better then “Shanghai Knights“.
The bad: the movie is pretty cheesy and silly, a “Last Action Hero” or “Karate Kid” set in China-like CGI set. Especially dialogs – stereotypical and often melodramatic, although in compliance with the genre. This is a much better movie for Jackie Chan then idiotic 80 Days Around The World, The Medalion or (oh my god it was stupid) The Tuxedo. All went pretty neatly and smoothly until.. I can’t believe it… Jet Li urinated on Jackie. That was the only nasty joke.
The summary: become a kid again – see this movie. The plot is full of holes, but I didn’t care – it was fun from start to end.
p.s. I left during final credits, but now I realize I should have stayed because Jackie loves to plug failed stunts in the end. Now I’ll have to wait for DVD.
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