Kung fool fight­ing

THE FOR­BID­DEN KING­DOM Di­rected by Rob Minkoff. Star­ring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael An­garano, Liu Yifei, Collin Chou

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

104 min AR­RIV­ING here a week af­ter the an­i­mated Kung Fu Panda, live ac­tion yarn The For­bid­den King­dom reeks of deja vu.

Once again, the prin­ci­pal set­ting is an­cient China, the pro­tag­o­nist is in­tro­duced as he dreams of en­gag­ing in kung fu ac­ro­bat­ics, and, yes, his dreams will be re­alised through the un­like­li­est of

12A cert, gen re­lease, nar­ra­tive con­trivances. And Jackie Chan, who pro­vided the voice of the mon­key fighter last week, turns up again, joined by Jet Li, who’s cast as the Mon­key King.

The bland young hero of The For­bid­den King­dom is Ja­son (Michael An­garano), a Bos­ton teen con­sumed with mar­tial arts movies he buys from a pawn­shop run by Old Hop (Chan), who is blind, aged and sage. When lo­cal thugs co­erce Ja­son into a rob­bery at the pawn­shop, Old Hop is shot. His dy­ing wish is for Ja­son to re­turn a sa­cred staff to his right­ful owner.

Ja­son falls off a roof and wakes up in an­cient China, where he meets boozy, hipflask-car­ry­ing Lu Yan (Chan again), who speaks pid­gin English. He agrees to help Ja­son to find the Mon­key King, who has been turned to stone by Jade war­riors, and to re­turn the staff. There’s time for love in­ter­est along the way when Ja­son falls for cute, ath­letic mu­si­cian Golden Spar­row (Liu Yifei). And Jet Li dou­bles up as the white-robed Silent Monk when it’s time for Ja­son’s oblig­a­tory kung fu train­ing.

The For­bid­den King­dom is the first movie to co-star Li and Chan, but both merely go through the mo­tions of their dual roles in this thor­oughly pedes­trian tale. The film was shot on at­trac­tive Chi­nese lo­ca­tions by Peter Pau, the Os­car-win­ning cin­e­matog­ra­pher of Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon, to which it pales by com­par­i­son.

It is en­livened only by the ac­tion set-pieces chore­ographed by Yuen Woo-Ping, whose ex­per­tise was demon­strated in The Ma­trix and Kill Bill.

Ev­ery time the fight­ing stops, the film grinds to a crawl as the thinly drawn char­ac­ters ex­change cliches and spout such pearls of wis­dom as, “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.”

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