The Forbidden Kingdom
In “Forbidden Kingdom,” American teenager Jason (Michael Angarano), who is obsessed with Hong Kong cinema and kung fu classics, finds an antique Chinese staff in a pawn shop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King (Jet Li). With the lost relic in hand, Jason unexpectedly finds himself transported back to ancient China.
There, he meets the drunken kung fu master, Lu Yan (Jackie Chan); an enigmatic and skillful Silent Monk (Jet Li); and a vengeance-bent kung fu beauty, Golden Sparrow (Crystal Liu Yi Fei), who lead him on his quest to return the staff to its rightful owner, the Monkey King – imprisoned in stone by the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) for five hundred years. Along the way, while attempting to outmaneuver scores of Jade Warriors, Cult Killers and the deadly White Hair Demoness, Ni Chang (Li Bing Bing), Jason learns about honor, loyalty and friendship, and the true meaning of kung fu, and thus frees himself.
“The Forbidden Kingdom” joins the ranks of films which “almost” received our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal. The language hit a level four and the violence rating hit a level three, which automatically disqualifies it from receiving the Dove Seal. Had these content levels been at a rating of two, we could have stamped it with our Dove Seal.
The film itself is imaginative with great shots of beautiful landscapes, and some very well choreographed fights, including one between the stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li. They start out as enemies but become friends when they discover their purpose is the same. The editing is also nicely done, with some scenes gently shifting into other scenes and some nice fade-out shots.
The humor includes some laugh-out-loud moments which happened several times in the audience I screened the movie with. In one clever scene, the young man and student Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano) tells his teacher Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) that he wants to learn kung fu immediately. Lu Yan whacks him with a staff, causing some pain, and tells him, “That is called a strike. Come back tomorrow and I will show you how to block!”
It is too bad the language and violence levels were not at least a little lower. There is little blood shown but the film includes almost non-stop violence with fights, swords, knives, and so forth. There are also a few racial slurs and Chan’s character drinks quite a bit of wine in the film, showing up drunk in several scenes. We wish the film had been tamer so families could have seen it without concerns about the aforementioned issues.