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In the pantheon of chop-socky cinema, the pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li ranks right up there with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Michael Mann’s 1995 crime-thriller “Heat” finally brought De Niro and Pacino together after years of wishing, but with decidedly lukewarm results.
The combustible Italian-American icons were already on the downward arc of a slowing career cycle at that point, and the run-of-the-mill genre piece did little to buck that trajectory.
Sadly, director Rob Minkoff’s ‘The Forbidden Kingdom” has the same effect on Chan and Li.
Both stars have seen their popularity in this country wane over the years and the affable pairing of the duo in this mythological-based fantasy piece feels like it may have come just a little too late.
That’s not to say the “The Forbidden Kingdom doesn’t have its treats for Chan and Li fans.
If you count yourself among those who still watch “Operation Condor” and “The One” at home over a big bowl of buttered popcorn, then you’ll probably get a kick out of watching Jackie and Jet pulling off dual roles in “The Forbidden Kingdom.”
The tale beings with a hapless American teen named Jason (Michael Anganrano) who is magically transported to feudal China where he’s immediately sent on a quest to free the imprisoned Monkey King (Li).
A drunken immortal named Lu Yan (Chan) soon crosses path with the befuddled traveler and decides to help him acquire the Kung Fu skills needed to whip the bad guys.
What follows is a lot of “wax on, wax off” type of stuff that was tired ten years ago.
At its best, “The Forbidden Kingdom” comes off as a cut-rate “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” with perfunctory fight scenes that demonstrate neither the wit nor creativity that both Chan and Li are known for and justly celebrated.
There are some formidable villains along the way, including a white-maned witch who can choke the life out of opponents with her tentacle-like tresses.
Chan and Li’s dual roles are disparate enough to delight fans through the more formulaic stretches of plot.
Chan first appears as an elderly shopkeeper, then as the drunken immortal who despite his inebriated state can kick butt like nobody’s business.
Li is almost unrecognizable at first as the vaguely fey Monkey King, before shifting into the tight-lipped Clint Eastwood-wood style Silent Monk.
The “broomstick” in this less-than fantastical fable is the Monkey King’s magical Bo staff which Jason must wield on his quest to free the imprisoned god.
“The Forbidden Kingdom” is watch-able
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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