Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sha(rr)ow, Simple P(r)easures.

The Forbidden Kingdom

Release: 04/18/2008
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 53 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
> Second-Run Seats ($$)

Michael Angarano (Sky High) is Jason Tripitikas, a South Boston teen and Kung Fu film buff. He regularly swings by the Chinatown Pawn Shop to grab the latest bootlegs from owner Hop, the ancient and snarky stereotype who spits hip (r)ingo with comical Asian accent, played by Jackie Chan. On his way home Jason is accosted by some local thugs-- let's call them Johnny Stromboli and the Spaghetti Sidekicks-- who beat him down until he agrees to help them rob the "old chink down in Chinktown." (I wish I was being funny, but that’s a real quote). The heist is botched and Jason flees with the golden staff of legend. A trip and a fall later, Jason finds himself in a magical realm that seems to be the China of centuries past. People think he is a legendary traveler come to return the staff to the Monkey King and save the Kingdom from the tyrannous rule of the Jade Warrior. Epic action and comedy ensue.

Hmmm, what can I say about Forbidden Kingdom? The bulk of the film is set in ancient China except for Jason's story, which bookends the tale in a present day cliché. It's like buying a decent piece of original artwork only to hang it in a cheap, plastic-and-acrylic poster frame. During the movie’s epic section, Jet Li, playing the Monk, is the most lively and funny character though Jackie Chan is amusing as Lu Yan, the drunken warrior. Once the hero group is all assembled, the tempo and story keep your attention.

My issue with this film is it continually reminded me of better, well-structured moments from other movies. I had flashbacks to The Karate Kid, Rocky, The Wizard of Oz, Full Metal Jacket, Legend of the Drunken Master and Hero. Given that the last two films also star Jackie Chan and Jet Li, the correlation should not be surprising. If you don't get the other references, here's a little montage to help:

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

All: We’re off to see the Wizard Jade Warrior. The wonderful wizard of Oz cruel tyrant of the Kingdom.

Wicked Witch of the West Witch: I’ll get you my pretty young traveler, and your little dog golden staff, too!

Miyagi Jackie Chan: First, wash all car chop all weeds. Then wax hit. Wax on Hit strong...
Daniel Jason: Yeah, but...
Miyagi Jet Li:Wax on wax off Speed, Accuracy. Don't forget to breathe, very important.

(HINT audience HINT)

Da Nang Hooker Sparrow: Hey, you got girlfriend Vietnam South Boston? Me so in love. Me love you long time.

(Um maybe those exact lines weren't in the film...)

Random Gay Stereotype Jade Warlord: Girlfriend! Traveler! You I look Fa-Bu-Lous! Now give me that staff!

Rocky Jason: Adrian! Sparrow!

(Image of Jade Emporer unavailable. Trust, this one is close enough.)

Narrator: Bastian Jason made many other wishes and had many other amazing adventures before after finally returning to the ordinary world. But that's another story.

Spoiler Alert Ended.

Dirty Undies
This movie is geared exclusively to teenage boys. If you don't mind your teens discovering a few classic racial slurs and think they'd totally miss the undertones urging young men to surrender their golden staff to flamboyant Asian men, then you have no reason to be concerned.

The best element of this film is the fight sequences. Having masterful choreographer Woo-ping Yuen (Kill Bill) behind these scenes makes a difference. The battle between Jet Li and Jackie Chan is by far the best fight. Other sequences are interesting but seem a bit choppy and computerized for anyone who enjoys the classic kung fu look.

The Money Shot
I'm not entirely certain, but I think the purpose of this film is to reinvigorate the Chinese-bootleg Kung Fu movie market with the current generation of American boys. I could be wrong about that, but I am certain The Forbidden Kingdom serves up a snappy and adequate tale of epic adventure. It'll be a bigger disappointment to any Kung Fu film aficionados.

One last thing:

Also, Dude, Chinaman Chink is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I saw this yesterday, you know I can't pass up a Jet Li and Jackie Chan movie. It was decent, the fight scenes kept my attention, the banter was humorous and I left feeling content. Yay me.. oh I did see it for free though so who knows how that influenced my opinion.

  2. Free is always a big help.

    It wasn't a horrible film by any means. Fighting, Jet-vs-Jackie especially, was great. I thought Jet Li was hilarious which he doesn't always get to do (the rain in the desert was the funniest moment).

    It really was the story's bookends that stuck in my craw.