Apr 04, 2008|
Category IIA. They said this was going to be every kung fu geek’s wet dream. Jackie and Jet finally together, a match made in monkey heaven. Alas, viewers old enough to actually have a wet dream will snooze through this puerile, plodding mess with scarcely an accidental hard-on. “The Forbidden Kingdom” is a desperate attempt by fat cat producers to milk a well-worn genre for every last penny, namely by giving it a suitable-for-all-ages makeover at the hands of director Robert Minkoff (“The Lion King,” “Stuart Little”).
The film follows the misadventure of teenager Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano), a martial arts film buff who gets teleported from Boston to ancient China after an elderly Chinatown shopkeeper (Jackie Chan caked in batter) asks him to return a golden staff to its rightful owner. There he learns it once belonged to the captive Monkey King (Jet Li caked in premium, extra-chunky batter), whom it’s his job to rescue from the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou). Accompanying the reluctant messiah on his onerous quest are a drunken master (Chan again), a monk (Li again), and an orphaned warrioress (Li Bingbing).
The entire dialogue sounds like a torturous mistranslation in its original English. Particularly cringe-worthy are the mcnuggets of wisdom served up about kung fu and life in general, compared to which fortune cookie aphorisms sound like Li Bai. Chan himself has admitted to thinking the script was “nonsense,” claiming he signed on simply for the chance to finally work with Li. Yet even here we’re let down, as the hotly anticipated fight scene between the two legendary stars – choreographed by no less than Yuen Woo-ping (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) – feels more like a tedious tap-dance than a long-awaited showdown. Were you grasping to say something good about this film, you could maybe credit its fine set pieces and cinematography, but these seem to be staples of every mammoth-budget epic churned out by the hour now. In its very own journey to the West, the Chinese kung fu epic is playing monkey-see-monkey-do with its most redundant examples.