“Forbidden Kingdom” – Susan Granger reviews

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The gimmick is that Hong Kong action stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li team up for the first time – but is that enough to warrant such a muddled martial arts fantasy?

It all begins as a bullied teenager, Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angarano), is forced to become involved in the robbery of an elderly pawnbroker (Chan) in South Boston. As he’s fleeing from local thugs and toting a mysterious golden staff, he’s magically transported to China’s Middle Kingdom. Lost and bewildered, he’s befriended by Lu Yan (Chan), a wisecracking, perpetually drunk martial arts master who identifies Jason as the “the seeker” who is destined to fulfill the ancient prophecy and begins training him in fighting skills so that he can return the staff to its rightful owner, the immortal Monkey King (Li), who has been imprisoned by a tyrannical Warlord. Joining them on the long, arduous trek to the Jade Palace is orphaned Golden Sparrow (Liu Yifei), who is determined to kill the evil Warlord, and the fearless Silent Monk (Li), who also becomes Jason’s teacher. From time to time, they’re harassed by a wicked white-tressed, whip-wielding, bounty-hunting witch (Li Bing Bing).

As Jason’s physical prowess improves, so does his self-confidence, which he’ll need when and if he can ever “return home.”

Screenwriter John Fusco and director Rob Minkoff deliver a fusion smorgasbord with a smattering of “The Wizard of Oz,” combined with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” topped with a fillip of “Rush Hour” and “The Karate Kid.” It’s generic enough to give anyone cinematic indigestion, followed by repetition-induced sleep, despite the impressive efforts of cinematographer Peter Pau and choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Forbidden Kingdom” is a tedious, butt-kicking 4, filled with cliché-ridden, chop-schlocky action.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.