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