There might have been some people who, while watching one of "The Lord of the Rings" movies, had a particular light bulb pop up over their heads. "Hey, you know what would really make this great?," they thought. "Some kung-fu by a couple of aging Asian action stars!"
"The Forbidden Kingdom" is the movie for them - and their children. This "Karate Kid"-meets-Tolkien tale, starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li as two martial-arts masters helping a shy, contemporary Boston boy ("Will & Grace's" Michael Angarano) on his quest to deliver a magical staff back in time to ancient China's Monkey King, is as predictable as Kevin Federline's career trajectory.
Some hardcore Hong Kong/Chinese film fans might take umbrage at the fact that two respected veterans of Asian action cinema like Chan and Li, in their continuing bid to gain traction with Western audiences, have to play support to a relatively unknown American teenager. And Chan is saddled with the worst wig this side of the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz."
Still, for all of its flaws, "The Forbidden Kingdom" is pleasantly enjoyable, largely thanks to the action choreography of the legendary Woo-Ping Yuen ("The Matrix," "Kill Bill") and the sense of spectacle delivered by director Rob Minkoff ("The Lion King," "Stuart Little").
Angarano plays Jason Tripitikas, a good-hearted and bullied kid who collects obscure Hong Kong DVDs and lives in a fantasy world of martial-arts action heroes. But his dreams turn to reality one day when, while perusing DVDs in a cluttered Chinatown shop run by a strange old man, he comes across a staff with magic powers.
It turns out the staff belongs to the Monkey King, who, even though he lived a few hundred years prior, still needs it to defeat an evil warlord. And so Jason's adventure begins.
It's just too bad they didn't spend as much money on Chan's rasta wig as they did on the special effects.
See the trailer and find local showtimes for "The Forbidden Kingdom."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times