LYNN NEARY, host:

We don't know if the Clinton and Obama campaigns ever considered settling their differences with a good kung fu match. If so, it might turn out like the new movie starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan reviews "The Forbidden Kingdom."

KENNETH TURAN: "The Forbidden Kingdom" is the kind of martial arts family film you get when the director of "Stuart Little" works with the team of Chan and Li: kung-fu light. When you call it cartoonish, smile all the way to the bank.

The storyline involves a nerdy teen from Boston named Jason who goes through The Gate of No Gate - seriously - and ends up making kung-fu history in China's mythical past, where, it just so happens, everyone speaks English.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Forbidden Kingdom")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. MICHAEL ANGARANO (Actor): (As Jason Tripitikas): I don't know what you're saying.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. ANGARANO: (As Jason) I can't understand you.

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) That's because you're not listening.

TURAN: Jason's task, whether he wants it or not, is to deliver a long-lost weapon to the Monkey King, who has been imprisoned in stone for the past 500 years. Jason's sidekicks include Golden Sparrow, a young woman hell-bent on revenge.

Fighting for Team Evil is the white-haired demoness, a woman who wields a mean whip, as well as a sharp tongue.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Forbidden Kingdom")

Ms. YIFEI LIU (Actor): (As Golden Sparrow) I should kill you, witch.

Ms. BINGBING LI (Actor): (As Ni Chang) Not if I kill you first, orphan.

TURAN: Well, okay, the great martial-arts films of the past didn't exactly feature scripts by Ingmar Bergman. What they did have was a hard-core integrity that reveled in exhilarating action and didn't worry much about market share.

"The Forbidden Kingdom" keeps referring to arcane martial-arts moves with names like the boot-upon and the dread iron-elbow, but it never overcomes its overall doofiness.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Forbidden Kingdom")

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (As character) Kill them.

TURAN: If you've been looking for a martial-arts film to take Granny and the kids to, this might be the one. But a Jackie Chan-Jet Li collaboration deserves better than that.

NEARY: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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