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The Forbidden Kingdom

(2008) *** Pg-13
113 min. Lionsgate Films.
The long-anticipated pairing of martial-arts stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li arrives under great scrutiny. On the one hand are the great expectations; on the other is healthy skepticism that Stuart Little director Rob Minkoff and Hidalgo screenwriter John Fusco are the men to make this vehicle run. As it happens, this American-eye view of kung fu cinema is a damn sight better than any American film Jet Li has made, serves Chan nearly as well, and ably incorporates Chinese mythology. Though it's shot on location in China, there's no mistaking the film's American-ness, with Michael Angarano playing the Boston teen swept magically into ancient China. The young actor proves surprisingly credible, but it's Chan and Li who mesmerize with their dual roles and thrilling fight moves. Unlike Heat, The Forbidden Kingdom doesn't skimp on the confluence of stars, contriving excuses for them to fight at length as well as team up. The whole enterprise would benefit from a breath of spontaneity once in a while, but it's a pleasure to report that the film is family-friendly without being stupid.
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