Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Liu Yifei, Michael Angarano, Collin Chow, Li Bingbing
(PG-13, 113 min.)
"The more you know the less you understand." Tao Te Ching
Jackie Chan teams up with fellow martial arts icon, Jet Li, to create a dish of perfect balance, peppered with witty rivalry, lighthearted charm, and epic ingredients guaranteed to teach and delight.
It’s all there: the quest for immortality and the elusive elixir that promises it, a young innocent with greatness as well as an unbelievably daunting task thrust upon him, and bigger than life evil geniuses such as the cruel Jade Warlord and the White Witch, who uses her ivory tresses and her leather bullwhip like twin tongues of a serpent. We also have the youth’s would be mentors – a drunken scholar who fights even better when he is inebriated (Chan) and a knight like monk (Li) who knows when to put aside the prayer beads in favor of a few swift kicks. Not to mention the young porcelain beauty seeking vengeance on the warlord who made her an orphan, as well as a benevolent but somewhat detached deity who interrupts his meditations every five hundred or so years to check on things down on earth, and the playful Monkey King (also Li), entrapped in a crust of stone until his magic staff is returned to him.
If you’re thinking Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia, or even perhaps, True Grit, okay, but do not label this film derivative. Instead, The Forbidden Kingdom merely draws on the same archetypal themes that they do. It also combines Chan’s comic self-effacement – this time subtle rather than unleashed – and Jet Li’s earnest tribute to legend and tradition recently captured in Jet Li’s Fearless.
The addition of the two young people is a bright move, too, as it adds some good back-story and provides role models for its target audience. Jason Tripitikas (Michael Angaarano) is initially the kind of nerd who probably knows every line and move in the kung fu movies he pops into his video like peppermint candies. And he would rather hang out with the ancient raspy voiced Lu Yan (Chan in a dual role) who rents them to him than the flirtatious classmates who try to snare his interest. However, we would have had thought he’d at least learned a few moves by now. His kicks are about as nonexistent as his courage, and Jason is only saved from grievous bodily harm at the hands of some local South Boston thugs by a magical staff that transports him back to ancient China.
Newcomer Liu Yifei plays Golden Sparrow, a quiet beauty with raven hair held back by a jade comb, which is a sort of silver bullet than can kill the immortal Jade Warlord who has murdered her mother. Like Chan’s drunken scholar who laments Jason's lack of fighting skill and the silent monk (Li), who remarks that the boy entrusted with the staff is not even Chinese, Sparrow is not too impressed with Jason either. Only reluctantly, as they journey to the rocky heights of the kingdom hovering in the clouds, do the two masters attempt to teach him their grueling art and discipline. The focus on Jason and Sparrow also works to transition 54-year-old Chan and 45-year-old Li off center stage and into the role of teachers, where wisdom and skill trump waning youth.
The “old guys” still look pretty impressive, though, and it’s obvious their sparring is full of good humor. Chan’s drunken fists fade into his stylized praying mantis as he fends off Li’s Snake or his Crow, and surprisingly it is twice the stoic monk and not Chan who gets in the bathroom humor jabs. This pairing of legends Jackie Chan and Jet Li is one fans have waited long and hard for – let’s hope The Forbidden Kingdom is just the start of their partnership.
When Jason lands in ancient China he arrives at a beautiful hilltop village terraced with a patchwork of water and emerald rice paddies. In fact, this scene of great beauty seems the exact place where Jet Li spent considerable time in his latest venture, Fearless. But hey, why waste such terrificly good footage?
The peace and harmony is short lived for our boy wonder, Jason, though, as the evil Jade Warlord sends his hordes down upon the poor farmers soon after he arrives. It is in tribute to these fallen souls that I offer up our recipe for Simply Spectacular Fried Rice – a wonderful side dish, but possibly hearty enough for a whole meal if you increase the meat portion.
Simply Spectacular Fried Rice
Serves 3 to 5
- 4 cups cold cooked rice
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons canola, corn, or peanut oil
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions or diced onion
- 1 teaspoon thick soy sauce
- 1 cup fresh peas, parboiled, or thawed frozen peas
- 1 cup diced carrots, parboiled or thawed frozen carrots
- 1/2 cup diced cooked ham, chicken, turkey or pork
- 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
Place the rice in a large bowl and use your fingers to break up any lumps. Set aside. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
Pour the oil into a wok or stir-fry pan and place the pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the scallions; they should sizzle. Stir for about 15 seconds. Stir the beaten eggs into the pan with a spatula and scramble until the eggs are dry and separate.
Add the rice to the eggs and mix thoroughly. Pour the soy sauce evenly over the mixture. Add the peas, carrots, ham, and bean sprouts. Stir constantly until all the ingredients are well mixed and heated through. Serve the fried rice immediately.
Recipe Source: ChineseFooddiy.com