At the risk of sharing too much personal information, the pairing of Jet Li and Jackie Chan is pretty much a wet dream for kung fu fans. Granted, Chan hasn't made a good movie in like a decade, and Li's attempts at American stardom have been super depressing. But still: Jet Li and Jackie Chan, man! Together. How cool is that?
To answer my own rhetorical question: The Forbidden Kingdom is pretty cool, even if, as a silly, family-friendly adventure flick, it isn't nearly as great as it could be. (For that, we'd have to go back to a time when Chan did all of his own stunts, before Li thought Lethal Weapon 4 was a good idea, and when it was inconceivable that Rob Minkoff, the auteur behind Stuart Little 2 and The Haunted Mansion, could helm a kung fu flick.) But times change, and The Forbidden Kingdom is what we've got, and I'm just gonna roll with it.
The story shamelessly steals from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Karate Kid, The Wizard of Oz, Zu Warriors, Spider-Man, and every kung fu epic ever: Jason (Michael Angarano), a dorky white kid from Southie, transports to a mythical version of ancient China, where he meets up with a funny drunken boxer, Lu Yan (Chan), and a badass quiet monk named... uh, the Silent Monk (Li). Soon enough, Jason's doing kung fu training montages and listening to cryptic proverbs while our crew treks through picturesque scenery to take down some generic bad guy I can't really remember. Along the way: wholesome life lessons, about $20 million worth of CG, and at least one awesome fight sequence where Li and Chan kick the crap out of each other.
All the fights here are pretty cool, actually—Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix, Kill Bill), the best action choreographer in the business, handles the action here, and while his presence isn't quite enough to overshadow the cheeseball direction of Minkoff, it helps. The Forbidden Kingdom has moments where it's genuinely charming—largely thanks to Chan and Li—and throughout, it's goofily enjoyable. So yeah, even if, overall, it's kinda crappy... c'mon! Jet Li vs. Jackie Chan! COME ON!