| The Red Right Hand
THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM
"Rob Minkoff? The guy that directed Stuart Little?" Those were my exact words when I discovered that the first film to feature both Jackie Chan and Jet Li (modern pioneers of the Kung Fu genre - if you weren't aware) was to be headed by the guy that brought us The Lion King and the abysmal Haunted Mansion. Surprisingly, the film isn't actually as bad as I feared. This could be owing to the fact that the film itself belongs a long forgotten genre, which hasn't really been explored since the 70's; Kung Fu Fantasy.
The plot is a relatively inaccurate adaptation of Journey To The West, in which Sun Wukong/The Monkey King [Li] and three other monks head to India to obtain religious texts. The film itself opens on a very brief account of the monkey king told to a contemporary American youth, Jason [Angarano] by a wizened old man who owns a pawn shop in Chinatown. When the kid is bullied into helping a gang of youths rob the store, he is given a magical staff and transported to an alternate time and dimension, in which mythological characters roam the plains of feudal China - which is why everyone speaks English.
Essentially, the film is a coming-of-age tale with an extremely predictable ending, typical to the genre and due to the playful nature (probably to ease the sell of Gods and warlords wielding force-like abilities) this film feels more like a Jackie Chan flick, featuring Jet Li, than a collaboration between the two.
There are, however, immense problems that desperately need to be addressed. For whatever reason the fight sequences simply don't seem up to par, considering the two legends that helm the cast - having said that, Li is well into his forties and Chan at least mid-fifties, so a certain grace should be allowed. The little American kid is annoying, I'm sorry, he just is. I tried to get along with him but his American ignorance just completely irritated the hell out of me - why do Americans always insist on using Baseball or Football references in time travel films, only to confuse the people they're addressing? Other than Li, Chan and Collin Chou as the Jade Warlord, the supporting cast had little-to-no back story other than the usual, "You killed my father!" spiel.
Overall this is a pretty decent kung fu flick if you're new to the genre but cinemagoers with more than five notches on their belt will probably get frustrated.
18th July 2008
The Scene To Look Out For:
During a cyclical gathering of the gods, the monkey king storms in and eludes the Jade Warlord and his guards. Entertained by the King's antics, the Jade Emperor grants the monkey king the gift of immortality. A well choreographed scene featuring a very hairy Jet Li.
Jackie Chan's portrayal of the drunken Lu Yan is extremely entertaining; almost makes me want to forgive him for Rush Hour 3.
"How can you learn when you already know so much? Empty your cup"
In A Few Words:
"Decent Chinese mythology/Kung fu flick if you've never seen one before in your life"