Jackie Chan and Jet Li star in their first feature film together in “The Forbidden Kingdom,” a widely imaginative martial arts movie that will be sure to entertain audiences of all ages.
Jackie Chan has been in a slump with his last few movies, most notably “Rush Hour 3,” his physical comedy has losing its unpredictability and his stunts becoming lackluster. However, he redeems himself in this new fantasy flick, producing his most entertaining performance in years.
The movie follows young American teenager Jason (Michael Angarano) who finds himself propelled into China where he is seen as a fulfiller of an ancient prophecy. He soon finds himself a part of a group of outcasts (Chan, Li, and Yifei Liu) on a quest to free the legendary Monkey King. Along the way he learns after years of idolizing Kung Fu, that there is more to it than cool fights; however there is plenty of that in here as well.
“The Forbidden Kingdom” uses a familiar formula but saves itself from being generic or forgettable thanks to sharp dialogue, meaningful performances, and fascinating fight sequences.
The script has it problems, such as being too predictable in places, but again can be forgiven because of the dialogue. Another forgivable problem is that the one liners sometimes feel corny, but that can be expected from a family film. The most attractive aspect about “Kingdom’s” script is that it never takes itself too seriously.
Director Rob Minkoff (who helmed Lion King and Stuart Little) knows his audience and makes the film as fun as it can be, doing so without using gross-out gags which too many other family films fall prey to. Okay, so the script is fun and witty, but that means nothing if the acting falls flat. Luckily, that isn’t the case here — everyone seems to be having a lot of fun as well as delivering a memorable performance.
Jackie Chan, as previously mentioned, carries most of the movie with his spot-on humor and great physical comedy. Jet Li has a few quaint one-liners, but his main purpose is to show off his marital arts skills. The young Michael Angarano gets credit for playing the stranded kid without becoming annoying, which is a difficult feat.
Now, on to the highlight of the movie: its martial arts sequences. These scenes are filled with breath-taking choreography and show great creativity, especially in the scenes with Jackie Chan. The film utilizes its fantasy element to get away with some of the more hard to believe moments, such as flying and more importantly, immortality. On top of all that, the film is beautiful to look at.
The cinematography is done wonderfully and compliments the landscapes of China greatly. You are treated to many different destinations from the urban parts (albeit ancient) to the beautiful countryside and forest.
This may be one of the biggest surprises of the year so far, as the trailers for this movie made it look like a lackluster family film disguised as a martial arts movie. The film propels itself above those standards and comes off as an enjoyable ride with memorable performances and a witty script. “Kingdom” mixes the two different styles of comedy and martial arts well and provides the audience with a fun adventure that shouldn’t be missed on the big screen.