The Forbidden Kingdom
A bullied Boston teenager (Michael Angarano) finds himself magically transported to a storybook version of ancient China, where he must draw on his penchant for martial arts and the help of a vagabond (Jackie Chan) and a monk (Jet Li) in a quest to return a mystical staff to its rightful owner. Writer John Fusco’s script blends The Karate Kid, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Wizard of Oz with an air of slick opportunism, like a sidewalk salesman deploying the latest catchwords. Rob Minkoff’s direction is rather clunky, trying for (but missing) the martial lyricism Ang Lee brought to Crouching Tiger, and the fight scenes go on too long. Still, the movie has a sweetly affecting fairy-tale atmosphere, and the teaming of the antic Chan with the wryly sardonic Li is a coup that’s been long overdue. J.L.