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The Forbidden Kingdom
Review written on: April 23rd, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom Review

Briefly set in the backstreets of South Boston, a hapless teenager named Jason (Michael Angarano) who’s a big fan of martial arts films makes a daily trip to a pawn shop in Chinatown where he?s well on his way to becoming a favorite of proprietor Hop (Jackie Chan). While piling through the used DVDs, he finds a staff on display. Taking a definite interest in the ancient weapon, Hop mentions that the person who was supposed to buy it never showed up. We then learn the story of the ancient Monkey King (Jet Li) and how in a battle with an evil warlord (Collin Chou) he casts off the staff and ends up imprisoned inside a statue. The mission: to get the staff back to its rightful owner.

Best known as Jack McFarland?s son on Will & Grace, Michael Angarano tries very hard to be the next Daniel LaRusso. Actually, I noticed that a bunch of themes from The Karate Kid seem to have been borrowed for this film. Onto the next part of the action! When a bunch of teenaged hoods see him with a bag from the pawn shop, they get the brilliant idea to rob it, and force Jason to be their patsy. When the confrontation gets a little more heated, he is told to take hold of the staff and then he flies off the roof of the building.

After Jason wakes up, he realizes that he’s been transported back to ancient China, with the weapon in hand. After a chance encounter with a slightly schnockered traveler (Jackie Chan), the journey begins. While en route, two more people come into the mix: a monk (Jet Li) and a teenaged girl (Yifei Liu) who?s trying to get to the warlord for her own personal reasons.

Apart from the initial storyline, and a desire for immortality amongst some of the supporting characters, the other major storyline is a doozy! Jason’s infatuation with Kung Fu has him begging the men to teach him! What comes next, you ask? The inevitable student training montage!

The battles were choreographed by Woo-Ping Yuen, and you can see the awesome wire work throughout the film! As I highly enjoy expertly executed martial arts fighting sequences and always have the thought in my head about how much agility and talent it takes to perform them, I posed some questions. How much of the fights did the Chan and Li do themselves? Their backs were turned much of the time and there were a lot of aerial shots, so it was often tough to pinpoint what they did or what their stunt doubles did. Would it even be proper for them to let viewers in on that?

Anyway, my mind did dawdle through most of it, with such a lukewarm and predictable plot, and especially during the training montage and the end result. It wasn?t a terrible movie, but I do hope that Li and Chan team up again, preferably in a hardcore action film. We know what they can do, kids, but many of us desire to see their skills, abilities, and years of training to be displayed in a different package.

 

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