The Forbidden Kingdom is the new Disney movie that pairs Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the same movie for the first time ever. The story is loosely based on one of the most famous Chinese literary classics, Journey to the West. There’s been many adaptations over the years of the classic including one that will be familiar to all anime fans – Dragonball. Having spent a large part of my childhood in Asia, I was familiar with the tale. I’m also a huge fan of both Jet Li and Jackie Chan. As an added bonus, Colin Chou (Seraph from the Matrix series), is also in this movie. I think he’s a great martial arts star who just hasn’t yet made it in the US market.
The movie centers around a teenage boy from Boston. He’s a big kung fu fan who hangs around Chinatown. He gets into trouble and comes into possession of an ancient wooden staff. This magical staff transports him to an ancient fairy tale China where he learns that this particular staff is magical and belongs to the Monkey King. The Monkey King however has been caste into stone by the evil Jade Warlord, and it is prophesied that a traveler from afar would restore the Monkey King and defeat the Jade Warlord.
Along his journey, the boy meets a drunk vagabond (Jackie), a monk (Jet), and an orphan girl. All of them join him on his quest to fulfill his prophecy so he can get home. The Wizard of Oz anyone? Jackie and Jet take turns training the boy complete with maxims and words of ancient Chinese wisdom. Many of them will resonate with martial artists in particular. Here’s an example: Eating bitter (before tasting the sweet) is a well known saying referring to putting in the hard work before reaping the rewards. The humor is pretty good. One scene in particular, when Jackie tells Jet that the boy is the chosen one, and Jet says he’s not even Chinese, was particularly hilarious. Why is it that America thinks they need a white male lead to star in movie about the greatest Chinese literary classic that already has the two most famous Asian actors?
Although Jet and Jackie share about equal screen time, and they both play 2 characters, Jackie gets the lion’s share of the dialog. This is not surprising since Jet’s always been more the quiet one. However, we all know the reason we want to see these two together for the fight scenes. Let me tell you they don’t disappoint in this department. I recall 4 major fight scenes, one of them involving Jet and Jackie fighting each other. The movie builds up to a great fight between the forces of good and the evil Jade Warlord and his army. The movie ties it’s loose ends together well.
I thought overall, the movie was entertaining. The movie pays homage to old kung fu movies like Drunken Master and Bride with White Hair. The setting and sets were absolutely gorgeous. Costumes were very ornate, and the special effects were well done. Nothing felt too cheesy and the wire-fu wasn’t overbearing. It’s a typical feel good Disney movie. I highly recommend it for the whole family. In fact, I ran into a student who brought his whole family to watch.
Parents who are concerned about whether they can take their kids to watch it should know that there’s a lot of fighting in the movie – duh. There’s also a few scenes that show blood and killing, but it’s done in a nonviolent sort of way that doesn’t draw attention to itself. If you take your children to watch Pirates of the Caribbean, then this isn’t any worse in terms of violence.
I give this 4.5/5.
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