Forbidden Kingdom

By Mark Ramsey | 2008/04/22

Writer: “It’s The Wizard of Oz meets The Karate Kid.”

Producer: “Any Dancing Excuses-for-Stars, kid?


Writer: “No, just The Wizard of Oz meets The Karate Kid.”

Producer: “Jet Li, Jackie Chan, plenty of stunt people floating around like feathers in a breeze, and the ghost of Ralph Macchio, too? I’m sold!”

And so am I, actually. Forbidden Kingdom is loads of fun!

A kung-fu-obsessed teen browses a Chinatown pawnshop where a magical staff awaits its rightful owner.

“Do you want this magical staff?” asks the elderly Chinese proprietor, whose demeanor and caked-on makeup suggests a much younger actor who has never actually seen an old man unless he’s in a movie played by a much younger actor.

“I’m a teenager,” says the boy. “My staff is already magical. It just wishes it could conjure beyond that corner of my imagination where the cast of Gossip Girl lives.”

Michael Angarano, who’s usually cast as “young” versions of bigger stars with more screen time, is the teen who falls off a roof and, thanks to that magical staff, drifts through a dimensional portal into ancient China, suffering no ill effects in transit, except for noticeably puffed-out hair.

“The winds of space and time are nature’s blowdryer,” Angarano explains.

He looks around and is lost amidst fields of rice and a chest of hair.

Well, one hair anyway. But fields of rice!

This is the ancient China of warlords and swordsmen wearing vast quantities of sparkly eye shadow. “I will fight you to the death!” says the Jade Warlord, “but first…Aesthetician, where’s my Ming Maybelline?! Cook, where’s my hasenpfeffer?!”

“Blue eyeshadow went out in the 1280′s!” Jet Li shouts at the Jade Warlord, and there’s no kung-fu move stronger than hurling a catty cosmetics critique.

Enter Jackie Chan, a nutritious part of any kung-fu breakfast. He’s a “traveling scholar,” a.k.a. “homeless drunk.” But a homeless drunk with mad combat skills! And he’s not only drunk, he’s immortal. Or maybe, like all drunks, he just thinks so.


Jackie regales Angarano with fifteen minutes of mythology to lay out the plot for this movie in language so simple even I can understand it:

Angarano must return the staff to the imprisoned Monkey King at Five-Elements Mountain, where all five elements will get Mischa Barton stopped for DUI. There, he must defeat the Jade Army, mid-ranked in value between the Silk Army and the Frankincense Army.

Wow, the Monkey King looks the part! “I am the son Rip Taylor and Gwen Stefani never had,” says his Furry Highness. “And I fight with the cuchi-cuchi of a hundred Charos!” he shouts as wires fly him to a guest spot on the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

And what would a movie about ancient China be without a brew offering everlasting life to he who sips it? “Today we call this brew ‘a production deal with VH1′” said Ralph Macchio, wistfully.

“Teach me to fight,” Angarano begs Jackie, “and to wear sparkly eye-shadow like a man, albeit transgendered.”

All of this hassle over a staff.

“Where I come from we don’t fight over a stick unless it’s a beef one from Hickory Farms,” said Country star Keith Urban, who arrived in Hollywood looking for wife Nicole Kidman, whom he hasn’t seen since their wedding in 2006.

And then there’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Jet Li vs. Jackie Chan:

Snake pose!

Eagle pose!

Crane pose!

Extinct dodo pose!

Cowering Don Knotts pose!

Remorseful David Hasselhoff pose!

Each pose more fierce and couture than the last, girlfriend!

Through the gate of no gate to fulfill the prophecy goes Angarano.

And I’m along for this ride all the way.

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