Kung fu greats miss the mark

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 April, 2008, 12:00am

Pairing Jackie Chan and Jet Li - currently the two biggest kung fu stars - in a martial arts fantasy sounds like a grand slam. But The Forbidden Kingdom misfires so badly, you'll feel cheated.

The film begins with Jason (Michael Angarano), a teenager who loves Hong Kong kung fu movies, being transported to ancient China where an evil warlord (Collin Chou) rules.

There he meets a drunken kung fu master Lu Yan (Chan), a warrior known as the Silent Monk (Li) and Golden Sparrow, a young musician (Liu Yifei) who has vowed to kill the warlord and avenge her parents' death. Together they embark on a dangerous journey to return a magical staff to the Monkey King and free the land from evil.

The main problem with the movie is that it's boring. Chan and Li do a lot of action sequences, but they feel routine and bland. Perhaps Chan and Li have starred in too many Hollywood martial arts flicks to remember how to keep their moves fresh.

If the action sequences are dull, then the emotional scenes are almost unbearable. The romantic relationship between Jason and Liu is so vague as to be almost nonexistent, while Chan and Li are like cardboard cut-outs when called upon to do anything other than fight.

The movie is reminiscent of John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China (1986), a martial arts fantasy rife with Chinese stereotypes. Some things in Hollywood never change.