The Forbidden Kingdom
Shoehorning a white teenager into a Chinese period piece just to make Americans feel like they’re not watching a foreign film is a deeply cynical move. Pretending the kid can perform martial arts, even in his dreams, is just plain foolish. But the strangest aspect of The Forbidden Kingdom, is that it misses the point that it is the first ever pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li (who even have a fairly good fight during the quest to reclaim a magic staff). Turns out, the magic is just a white boy.
I’m not sure what one should expect from the director of Stuart Little 1 and 2 (note that there is a disheartening lack of CGI mice on display here), but this odd mix of fanciful wire-fu and special effects and hilariously clichéd and over the top street thugs (complete with phony Brooklyn accents, despite the film taking place in Boston) chasing our “hero” to his near death, was certainly a strange surprise. Fans may recognize some of the fights from such Jackie Chan classics as Drunken Master II, but they’ll be distracted by the teenager (a Shia Lebouf doppelganger)who envisions himself as a fighting master, complete with a Steven Seagal ponytail.
Still, the movie is fitfully silly and amusing, especially Li’s turn as a monkey man, but the filmmakers, in their zeal to appeal to the largest possible audience, fail to realize that you should never have Jackie Chan attempt to dole out 7 minutes of exposition in English. If there’s one thing they really got right, it’s a scene where Jet Li pees all over Jackie Chan. I guess the original title of the film was going to be Curse of the Golden Shower.