Starring: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Yifei Liu, Colin Chou, and Bingbing Li
Director: Rob Minkoff
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars
A nerdy American teenager (Angarano) is transported to mythical ancient China where he must free the immortal Monkey King (Li) by returning his magical fighting staff to him and engineering the defeat of the Jade Warlord (Chou). He is aided in his quest by a drunken warrior-scholar (Chan), a taciturn monk (Li, again), and a vengeance-seeking young bard (Liu).
"The Forbidden Kingdom" is a martial arts fantasy extravaganza that the entire family can enjoy. It's got action, humor, fantastic set and costume design, interesting heroes, flashy villains, and some pretty nifty martial arts scenes. The storyline seems to have been arrived at by a thorough blending of 30 years of martial arts movies, Asian mythology, western fantasy fiction and movies. The film plays both as its own stand-alone work and as a loving tribute to all the many sources it draws from.
On a technical level, I was in awe over the incredible attention to detail shown by the production staff on this film. Particularly impressive was the costuming and make-up of the Monkey King and the bird-like, whitehaired Witch (who is a character bound to creep out the young kids in the audience and who is played with chilling iciness by Bingbing Li) and the continuity between shots and scenes in sequences such as the battle between Chan and Li's characters in an abandoned temple, or the effects on Liu's Young Sparrow character from the fight with the Witch. If there is an award for continuity control, this film deserves one!
If you're a parent who loves Asian mythology, martial arts and fantasy--or perhaps even just fantasy-- and you want to share that this is a film you should share with your 10-14 year-old kids.
And if the family enjoys "The Forbidden Kingdom", allow me to recommend my favorite obscure anime "Mask of Zeguy" (aka simply "Zeguy". It's a similar tale where a teenaged girl is transported to a mythical kingdom in the clouds and must save both it and our world from an evil sorceress. It may only be available via services like Netflix these days, but you won't regret chasing it down.)