The Forbidden Kingdom
Review by Jack Foley
THE pairing of martial arts legends Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the same movie ought to be a mouth-watering prospect for any true fan of the genre. But sadly, it’s likely to leave them bitterly disappointed.
Rather than teaming up or facing off in a no-holds barred action extravaganza, the duo have decided to come over all touchy-feely for this lightweight kids movie that’s only concerned with paying respectful homage to past screen classics.
After being bullied by neighbourhood thugs, Boston teenager Jason (Michael Angarano) is magically transported back to ancient China to save the world by defeating an evil Jade Warrior (played by Collin Chou) who has stolen a magic staff from the legendary Monkey King.
Helping him on this mission is a good-natured drunk (played by Jackie Chan) and a mysterious monk (Jet Li) who have their own reasons for wanting to restore balance to the kingdom.
Taken on its own terms, The Forbidden Kingdom is a moderately entertaining teen update of the Chinese classic Journey To The West that also feels like a cross between The Golden Child and The Karate Kid.
Both Li and Chan appear to be having fun clowning around and indulging in whatever martial arts mayhem director Rob (Stuart Little) Minkoff can throw at them, while a keenly-anticipated fight scene between them marks a highpoint despite – tellingly – failing to realise a winner.
But once the dust has settled and teen movie conventions are strictly adhered to, audiences are left to ponder what might have been.
The action is mostly family-friendly and more befitting Chan’s comical baffoonery than Li’s harder-edged artistry, while the story itself is predictable and even pedestrian in places. Angarano is also way too earnest as the teenage hero and ends up lumbering the film with a bland leading presence.
Young teenage martial arts fans will probably get a kick from some of the imaginatively choreographed set pieces but, rather like the aforementioned Golden Child, it’s not a movie that’s destined to age well or live long in the memory. Like we said, a missed opportunity.
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD Release: November 17, 2008