The Forbidden Kingdom

April 18th, 2008 by exolstice

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Jet Li and Jackie Chan, together at last! It sounds like a match made in martial arts movie heaven. Unfortunately for us, the filmmakers decided to make the hero a white kid from South Boston, but that’s not the only place they went wrong.

The movie opens with a painfully fake fight seen atop the “Mountains of the Elements” where the Monkey King (Jet Li in a ridiculous outfit and makeup) faces off with the Jade Army. You can practically see the wires. It’s pathetic. Thankfully it doesn’t last long as we soon find ourselves in the bedroom of our hero (who’s name I’ve already forgotten, that’s how memorable it was) waking up from a dream in a room with walls covered in martial arts movie posters (most of them better than this film I might add). In short, our hero is some geeky white kid. He buys kung fu movie bootlegs in a Chinatown pawn shop (not unlike the one in Gremlins) run buy a mysterious old man (Jackie Chan in ridiculously obvious makeup). But wait, it only gets worse.

While on one of his daily (I’m assuming) visits to the pawn shop, our hero happens to spy a door ajar. While there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this door, or the room behind it, he nevertheless decides to investigate. And, big surprise, what should he happen to find but a mysterious object! In this case an staff ornately carved staff, which the old man explains was left with him until it could be returned to its rightful owner. This overused premise could be written off as a clever homage, but it’s done with such a lack of wit or irony that the audience can’t help but roll their eyes.

In the next scene, our hero is bullied by a gang of street toughs, straight out of a Karate Kid movie, complete with bad dialog. They coerce him into helping them rob the pawn shop. Another terrible scene ensues. The shopkeeper gets shot, and our hero is thrown off the roof with the staff which unexplainably transports him to the Forbidden Kingdom. I guess they ran out of special effects budget, because the only transition from the roof top fall, to our hero waking up in a Chinese hut is a scene cut. Also, his clothes were magically transformed to fit this new location.

From there, it’s a quest to return the staff to the Monkey King. He’ll meet some friends along the way to help him: Jackie Chan as a drunken immortal kung fu master, Jet Li as a monk who spent his life searching for the staff, and Liu Yi Fei as a girl out for revenge against the Jade Warlord over the death of her parents. This last companion also serves as a love interest in a contrived subplot that is about as romantic as a kick to the groin.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that our hero gets trained by Jet Li and Jackie Chan into an kung fu expert, someone almost dies but is saved at the last minute, our hero loses faith in himself but regains it in the end, the hero eventually returns the staff to the Monkey King, and Jet Li urinates on Jackie Chan’s head. Well maybe that last one was a spoiler. If you want to see these two martial arts legends together, rent Drunken Master and Hero, and watch them simultaneously on adjacent television sets. The result will be surprisingly more coherent and enjoyable than The Forbidden Kingdom.

**

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