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The Forbidden Kingdom April 25, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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This martial arts script seems interesting.
Hmm.. not bad. It will need a big star like Jackie Chan or Jet Li.
Wait a minute! There’s two sizeable roles here. How about putting Jackie Chan and Jet Li together? That should guarantee box office returns.
Thats a sensational idea. But will it appeal to a larger audience in North America? How about putting an American in the middle?
Now, who wrote this?
John Fusco.
I should get him to work on a rewrite immediately.

It is possible that the film was conceived this way. Maybe it wasn’t.

As you can figure out by now, an American boy is at the centre of this film and he is crazily devoted to kung fu cinema. After an unforeseen turn of events involving an altercation with the local thugs and a shooting incident, the boy gets hold of the weapon of the Monkey King, a warrior from ancient China (presumably). Now the boy is magically transported to an unknown land (where fortunately, the friends and foes can speak English). His mission is to deliver the weapon back to the Monkey King and free him in the process so that he can overthrow a truant ruler. He is accompanied on his mission by a drunken kung fu master, a monk and a girl bent upon revenge. He also learns kung fu along the way and it stands him in good stead in his world.

The teaming of Jackie Chan and Jet Li is obviously the big deal in this film but I wouldn’t say that this film is tailored specially for the pairing. I am not sure if fans were expecting to see them pitted against each other but that isn’t the case here (though they have one enjoyable duel). Nevertheless, they work well together. Jet Li is especially hilarious as the Monkey King. The younger cast members, Michael Angarano (Sky High) and Liu Yifei are likable.

The film is really an action comedy with an element of fantasy. Director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) maintains the comic tone throughout except for a small part towards the climax where he attempts to involve you emotionally. The comedy in this film might not make you roll on the floor but it is amusing enough. The film does have some good locations/sets and pleasing cinematography but there isn’t an attempt to enchant the audience with the visuals. When Yuen Woo-Ping (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill, Matrix) choreographs the action sequences, you can be sure they are first-rate and obviously the two J’s look good executing them.

Despite the epic setting, this fantasy isn’t an epic. It isn’t a classic and it isn’t trying to be. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining entry in the martial arts comedy genre that is aimed at an audience looking for a fun night out. Fans of the genre and the two lead actors should definitely enjoy this non-serious adventure.