The good news? Two of Asia's biggest action superstars have teamed up for the first time. The bad news? It's 15 years too late. And what's with the white kid?
The Forbidden Kingdom is yet another picture in which we are meant to experience an exotic locale peopled entirely by "others" through the eyes of a Caucasian character. In this case, it's a fantasy world cobbled together from classic Chinese literature and period martial arts movies. As the latest entry in the category of "low expectation, Asian-themed, English-language movies written and directed by respectful American creative talent," the film is slightly above average entertainment. But I grow tired of having to lower my expectations in exchange for the pleasure of seeing talented Asian performers make an appearance on the big screen in America.
Writer John Fusco and director Rob Minkoff make fun of some of the stereotypes inherent in period martial arts pictures, while also sprinkling shout-outs into the material to demonstrate their love and knowledge of the various source materials that inspired them. Jackie Chan and Jet Li are cheerfully engaging as a drunken beggar and monk on a mission, respectively, providing most of the film's comic and action highlights in supporting roles. That's right -- Chan and Li have both achieved Hollywood stardom, are top-billed, are no doubt top-paid, but play second fiddle to "the white kid," Michael Angarano. We waited years for this?