Sunday, April 20, 2008

THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM was described by one critic as “Kung Fu lite”. This is a martial arts, tongue in cheek, don’t expect anything surprising, old time formula flick that is just good entertainment, especially if you are a fan of Jackie Chan or Jet Li who both star in it.

The story centers around a kung fu obsessed teen (played by Michael Angarano) from Boston (of all places) who seems like any other teen nerd type that the movies portray as the stereo-type nowadays. He has a “friend” who is an old, old pawn shop owner who keeps him in stock with kung fu movies and articles of interest. In the back of the pawn shop, he finds an ancient staff. Well, not to tell too much, there are the “bad teens” who show up and threaten our hero who mystically gets transported through the “gate of no gate” (just a dumb plot device to get the kid where the action is) where he gets mentored by an always drunk Jackie Chan who can still best an army of bad guys while totally in the bag! What a guy! The plot is that our young hero must return the staff to the Monkey King who has been turned to stone for 500 years. Along the way they add the silent monk (Jet Li) and Sparrow (Yefei Liu) to the party.

There is nothing special about the plot of THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM and even the title doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story … so who cares. Just bring on Jackie and Jet and have some fun. And that’s what the movie does. There is plenty of screen time for both Chan and Li. The martial arts scenes are what the martial arts movie buffs want and I don’t think they will be disappointed. I especially liked the arch villain the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) who I thought made a great bad guy. All that mascara reminded me of Ming the Merciless.

I think the costumes and sets were wonderful and very well done as was the matt work for most of the scenes. The photography was good to the point of distracting, especially the scenes filmed in China. I found the whole film a pleasure for the eyes to behold. I did have some trouble understanding parts of the dialog from Li and Chan, which annoyed me a bit. But, if you’ve seen these guys before, you’re used to it.

Still, this is just another kung fu movie, nothing new here except it has both Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Despite the Karate Kid story line and the very predicable plot, I found this very entertaining. And that is what I go to the movies for, to be entertained. And it was a real pleasure to see Jet Li smile and even laugh in a film. Now that’s entertainment!!

I’ll give it an 8 out of 10 on my ever so humble Monkey King movie scale. You the man!

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