Written by John Fusco
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Running Time: 1:53
for sequences of martial arts action
and some violence.
The Forbidden Kingdom wasn't what I expected, but in the end I found myself having fun.
A young Bostonite named Jason gets magically transported back in time to another world where he has to return a powerful staff to its rightful owner, the Monkey King. The Jade Warlord has taken control of the kingdom and only Jason, along with his teacher Lu Yan, the Sparrow and the Silent Monk, can help the Monkey King. But Jason, coming from Boston, may not be the best person in the world for such a quest. So it is up to his gang to teach him how to fight and to save the kingdom.
So apparently I missed all the commercials that showed a white kid from Boston being the star of The Forbidden Kingdom. I thought the movie was going to be a martial arts epic with Jackie Chan and Jet Li playing warriors who hated each other, but teaming up to take down a bigger enemy. So imagine my surprise when the movie starts off with Jason waking up in his parent's house and bicycling down to the local store to pick up karate movies. Then suddenly, in the middle of a fight with a bunch of thugs, Jason is somehow transported to another time and place, where he is thrown into the middle of a battle. The entire premise of the movie was nothing like what I expected. But as I continued to stare at the screen, I found myself enjoying what I was watching.
First off, there is a ton of fighting in the film, including the one thing everyone wanted to see: a 5-7 minute one-on-one fight between Chan and Li. Two masters of the trade battling each other with no interference - exactly what I was hoping for. And during the rest of the film, in between slower moments, there were a lot of other fights. So from that perspective, the movie gives you what you're looking for. Visually it was pretty good as well, although not as lush and glamorous as you might expect. It felt kind of hazy, almost like the entire thing was a dream sequence.
The story was decent I suppose. It felt a little slapped together, but the movie had enough comical moments to make up for a lack of structure. As I said, the entire premise was unexpected and there was no real rhyme or reason as to why it happened. We're just supposed to accept that a kid would naturally travel through time and then accept his destiny to save the Monkey King. This is a fantasy adventure after all. The bad guy in the film was extremely corny, which may or may not be an homage to old karate films. I was never a big fan of those films, but from what I've seen, they're mostly about the fighting and not so much about characters. The bad guys in those films (and a bunch of Bollywood films) end up being over-the-top in their performances, as if they're trying to milk as much as they can out of their screen time. For all of his makeup, the Jade Warlord held his own in his battles against everyone else, but it was kind of hard to watch him without laughing.
The one problem I really had was listening to the actors, especially the two stars. Jackie Chan isn't the easiest person to figure out when he speaks English, and in this movie it was even worse. He plays two characters, and the elder character he plays not only has Jackie's voice, but also the voice of an old person who seems seconds away from dying. There were entire sequences where I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I think most of it was supposed to be funny, but I honestly couldn't tell you what he said. I think I may have to rent this movie when it comes out on DVD just to see if he was being funny or inspirational. And when he was playing the younger character, it was still hard to understand him, and then you throw Jet Li on top of that... well, let's say it's a good thing they speak more with their fists.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked The Forbidden Kingdom. It wasn't a great movie, but it had enough laughs and fights to keep me entertained. Although subtitles may have also helped.
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