The plot is pure choose-your-own-adventure: A bullied wuxia fanboy from South Boston (Michael Angarano) is teleported back into a LARP fantasia of feudal China, where hes singled out as the long-anticipated Chosen One prophesied to topple the despotic warlord. Our nominal hero then recedes behind the two Mr. Miyagis who adopt him: a Lisa Bonetbewigged Jackie Chan and warrior-monk Jet Li (English line readings: 75 percent intelligible). This is the first collaboration between kung fus Astaire and Kelly, and, as that, it disappoints. Like so much here, the fight arrangements by choreographer Yuen Woo-ping arent so much bad as undistinguished: The camera placement is off, the tempo unvaried, and Chans movements are obscured by his piled-on robes. The cinematography lacks storybook indelibility; Collin Chous Jade Emperor is a stock archvillain (though Li Bingbings bullwhip-toting White Haired Demoness, announced with apocalyptic reverb, is lovely) . . . and then theres the scene where Li actually pisses in Chans facea degradation familiar to viewers incensed by the demographic-outreach casting of white-dude Angarano. Taken as a whole, though, its an amiable lost-and-found of epic-adventure tropes. As I still illogically treasure Willow, many a 10-year-old who sees Forbidden Kingdom will remember it fondly in spite of its flaws.
Rob MinkoffJet Li, Jackie Chan, Michael Angarano, Collin Chou, Yifei Liu, Bingbing LiJohn Fusco, Ch'eng-En WuRyan Kavanaugh, Casey SilverLionsgate