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THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM (2008) *** ½

 

Two living martial arts legends, Jackie Chan and Jet Li share the screen for the first time ever in this immensely entertaining kung fu flick that balances a lot of old school chop sockey charm with high tech CGI effects. 

 

A kid gets bullied into robbing an old Oriental shopkeeper (Chan).  When the kid picks up a golden staff, he’s magically transported to ancient China where he learns he must return the staff to it’s rightful place on top of a mystic mountain so that the Monkey King (Li) can reclaim his throne.  Along the way he meets a drunken master (Chan) and a no-nonsense monk (Li) who help him on his quest.   

 

Basically the plot borrows from everything from Drunken Master to The Neverending Story to Lord of the Rings.  Does it really matter though when you have Jackie Chan and Jet Li duking it out with each other on screen?  I think not.

 

The scene where Chan and Li kick the crap out of each other is damn good times and is easily the best thing about the movie.  You’d think since this flick was directed by the guy who did Stuart Little that the kung fu action would be kinda weak, but you’d be wrong.  I’m happy to report that either Li or Chan kick the stuffing out of somebody every five minutes or so in this flick.  The film also contains at least one memorable villain in the lovely shape of Bi Ling Ling as the white haired dominatrix bounty hunter who stalks the heroes. 

 

The wraparound segments that take place in the “real” world are serviceable at best, but again, who really cares just as long as we get to see Jackie Chan and Jet Li kick butt?  The opening credits that features poster art from several kung fu flicks is also quite a treat. 

 

Chan gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Crouching Tiger, Spanking Monkey!” 

 

The Forbidden Kingdom’s got enough martial arts action to send it straight to Number 3 on the Video Vacuum Top Ten for ’08, right below Doomsday and just ahead of The Ruins. 

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