Jackie and Jet together-their “Kingdom” has finally come
Fans of martial arts films have been salivating over the chance to finally see the two biggest stars of their genre, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, do battle together in the same movie.
While “The Forbidden Kingdom” offers just that, seeing these two titans clash in their sunset years far beyond their respective primes, the lighthearted nature of the film and its fantasy feel make it seem more an homage to its kung fu heritage than a classic in its own right.
Those not jaded by the glorious majesty and soaring wire work of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “House of Flying Daggers” will find a lot to enjoy in “The Forbidden Kingdom.” It’s not easy to pull off a pastiche of different elements of a genre and not slip into parody, but director Rob Minkoff (an odd choice considering his credits include the “Stuart Little” films and “The Lion King”) enlists not only aging icons Li and Chan, but also veteran fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (“The Matrix”) and the equally talented cinematographer Peter Pau (“Crouching Tiger”).
The result is a thoroughly entertaining, well-paced, and beautifully shot film that features a “Karate Kid” story line, in parts mixed with traditional fighting sequences that are at times breathtaking. Welcome doses of slapstick and winking humor are sprinkled throughout and help to rescue the film from the occasionally heavy, but never overbearing exposition.
The film begins and ends on the streets of south Boston, where teenager and martial arts fan Jason (Shia Labouef look-alike Michael Angarano from “Sky High”) is charged with returning a magical, legendary ancient staff and freeing a fabled warrior. Of course, this requires him to be transported to dynastic period China. With the help of a drunken master (Chan), the Silent Monk (Li), and a beautiful orphan Sparrow (Liu Yi Fei), the young boy is taught the ways of kung fu. Together, they all rally to defeat the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).
If the worst thing that can be said about “The Forbidden Kingdom” is that it is a primer for those usually not interested in marital arts films, or youngsters new to the genre (even if old school fans might have wanted something more edgy or far reaching in scope), then Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s long overdue reunion serves an important purpose in bringing martial arts to the masses.
Rated PG-13 for violence.