"The Forbidden Kingdom"
Directed by Rob Minkoff.
Written by John Fusco.
Starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Liu Yifei and Michael Angarano.
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 4/26/08
Let me make sure I'm clear on the facts
The two biggest martial arts stars in
Asia, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, have never appeared in a film
together until now.
Rather than make a film together with
Asian filmmakers, they sign off on a film from Lionsgate,
directed by the guy who gave us not only "Stuart Little", but
also its world-renowned, Oscar-winning sequel, "Stuart Little
Rather than have the film, based on a
Chinese prophecy/fantasy, be written by an Asian artist, these
two megastars signed off on a script written by a gringo who
gave us not only "Young Guns"--a good film in its own right--but
also its world-renowned, Oscar-winning sequel, "Young Guns II."
To top this all off, the film features
these two megastars as side characters...their film actually
stars a kid who was a small bit player in "24" last season and
who also starred in
To say the least, "The Forbidden Kingdom"
has a strange, strange making-of backstory. But, the movie
itself takes all of this and gives us a serviceable film experience,
thanks to nearly non-stop action and the wire-to-wire stunt show put
together by the legend in wire-fighting, Yuen Woo-Ping.
Basically, Angarano plays a South Boston youth who is literally
transported to a time in either the recent or very, very distant
past, where he wakes up in China and in possession of a staff that
must be sent back to the Jade Empire's fortress, where the Monkey
King (Li) is frozen in stone and needs the staff to release him from
his imprisonment. To get to the fortress, he'll need the help
of a drunken fist master (Chan) and a mysterious assassin/instrument
player (Liu Yifei), as well as a more-violent-than-normal-monk (also
Li), to make the magic happen.
The fight scenes are not bad, although there
are large sections where it is obvious that Chan--now in his
mid-50s--is using a double for his work, a sign that this film is
coming about 10 years too late. Worse is the fact that this
should be a Chan and Li film, not an Angarano film...this ultimately
hurts the end product, because the two megastars should be playing a
duet, not working with a four- or five-piece band. Sure, you
have to have other bit players in your movie...look at "Heat", when
Pacino and De Niro worked together, you still had an all-star cast,
but they were clearly in the background. Not so, here.
And, was Michelle Yeoh or Zhang Ziyi not available for the part of
Sparrow, the assassin? The best we could do is a woman who has
no other significant screen credit?
For the size of this production, it is
strangely low-wattage...and, I'm still surprised that this is an
American film with a majority-English dialogue track...what is the
world coming to? "The Forbidden Kingdom" isn't bad, but it is
just kind of weird that this large an opportunity was left in the
hands of those ill-prepared to run with it.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard