An American Kung Fu movie geek is entrusted with an ancient staff which transports him to a magical world where the mystical Kung Fu characters of his movies are real.
The Forbidden Kingdom is a throwback to the wish fulfilment fantasies of the 1980’s, sharing a lot in common with the likes of The Karate Kid, Big Trouble In Little China and even Indiana Jones. Making the hero of the film an American will no doubt irritate many and he is certainly the least interesting character in the film, but he is also for the most part a figure of fun in the same way as Jack Burton was in Big Trouble In Little China. Jet Li strikes up a great buddy partnership with Jackie Chan who revives his Drunken Master routine and their face off is impressive as you’d expect. Plus having grown up with cheesy 1970’s TV show Monkey, I’d have to say that Jet Li makes a brilliant Monkey King; in fact I’d love to see a film version featuring him in the role. I would have to say that the script is inevitably very formulaic and Yefei Liu’s superfluous character only seems to be there to make sure that there’s an even distribution of “hotties”. But as a whole it’s a funny, exciting, family friendly fantasy with a knockabout charm that is clearly pandering to the Pirates Of The Shaolin crowd; but it works.
Corny in an almost pleasing way and probably the best thing Jackie Chan has done since he first started bending over for the Hollywood buck, disparaging this film for its “homogenization of Chinese culture” is rather missing the point.