Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So my boy Pete calls me the other day complaining about Jet Li, in particular because he thought Jet Li had sworn off of doing Kung Fu movies. Now with Pete being a big Jet Li fanboy, he was curious what exactly Mr. Li was going to do with his spare time. Play ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Death of a Salesman’? Pete mused that perhaps Mr. Li should actually learn how to act before taking on such pursuits since round house kicking someone to the back of the head doesn’t necessarily make one a master thespian. What really got Pete’s goat was this particular movie ‘The Forbidden Kindgdom’ since Jet Li is clearly roundhouse kicking boatloads of his Asian brothers in the back of the head in this movie. I attempt to explain to Pete that he has only stopped making Wu Shu movies, and not general Kung Fu movies. Pete relayed to me that he thinks that’s silly and that Jet Li should keep his mouth shut. I told Pete that should I ever meet Jet Li, I would inform him of that and give him the opportunity to tell Mr. Li this to his face, which Pete is more than stupid enough to do.

Regardless, what we have in ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ is a modern Kung Fu lovers wet dream as the Legendary Jet Li is paired with the probably more Legendary Jackie Chan for the first time ever. I’m going to assume there will be no profits made for the producers of this particular film. Our story begins with Jason (Michael Angarano), a young Anglo boy who just loves him some Kung Fu Cinema. He often hangs out at this old Chinese man’s shop in his tough Boston town picking up any new old DVD releases the old man runs across. Jason has this misfortune after leaving the old man’s shop one day of running into some neighborhood punks who kick his ass and force him to convince this blind old Chinese cat to open his door late one night ,which leads to the old man getting shot and Michael getting tossed of the roof of a 10-story building, while holding a magical golden stick.

Amazingly when Jason regains consciousness he is in medieval China holding this stick and has awakened just in time to see the evil soldiers of the Jade Army destroy this

village and steal their women. They would have killed Jason as well were he not saved by the Drunken Master Lu Yan (Chan), who rescues Jason and tells him the story of this golden stick and how the evil immortal Jade Warlord (Robin Chou) tricked the fun loving very silly immortal Monkey King (Li) and captured him in a prison of stone. They now await for the appearance of The Seeker or something to bring the Monkey King his magic stick and set him free, and little does Jason know, he is this Seeker that they are waiting for. Another big fight breaks out and here they meet the lovely Golden Sparrow (Yifei Lui) who assists in their getaway and speaks of herself in the third person for some reason, and has sworn Eternal Revenge against the Jade Warlord. They also pick up a mysterious Monk (Li) who joins them on their mission to return the magic stick to the imprisoned Monkey King. The Monk and Lu Yan realize that Jason has no kung fu skills so they go Wax on Wax off on him and learn him up good because he’s going to need those skills to get past the brutal Jade army, and lest we forget when he gets back home there are some local thugs who have kicked sand in his face and need to be put back in their places.

When I first saw the trailer for ‘The Forbidden Kindgom’ I must admit it didn’t do much for me, until I saw Li Bing Bing in floor length white hair which she had total control over. With fond memories of the ‘Bride with White Hair’ warming my heart I now knew I had to see this movie. And truth be told I was a little disappointed. First let me say that there’s nothing particularly wrong with ‘The Forbidden Kingdom’ as it has plenty of action, Jet Li and Jackie Chan seem to work together well, their fight scene as choreographed by the legendary Yeun woo Ping was excellent and the Li Bing Bing does Bridgette Lin and ‘The Bride with White Hair’ proud. But the story which encases the action sequences, which are a bit disconnected from the rest of the movie, is so tired and banal that there were times that film just felt ‘dull’ despite all the fireworks surrounding it. The reasons for this are that you have one movie, directed by Rob Minkoff of ‘Stuart Little’ fame and then you have a whole mess load of actions sequences, which was easily half the movie, directed by Yeun Woo Ping and the two never came quite came together. What in the world are we going to when Yuen Woo Ping, who still has plenty of life left at sixty three, passes away? Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung are damned good, but they are no Mr. Ping.

Robin Chou isn’t quite the legend that Li and Chan are but he’s a damn good martial artist in his own right and plays a great bad guy though they dressed him up in so much eye mascara that he looked like a drag queen with a goatee. Also the opening credits were nothing short of some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Regardless, despite the relatively high death toll and various stabbings and impalings it was all pretty bloodless and the violence was more cartoonish than anything so I think youngsters over the age of 10 will have a really great time with this movie. It just felt to me that east and west could have come together better than it did in this film and what could have been a really good popcorn film ultimately was only okay.

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