Martial arts titans Jet Li and Jackie Chan share the screen for the very first time in Rob Minkoff's chop socky adventure, a lively East-meets-West smackdown filmed on location in China.
Fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix trilogy, Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) once again orchestrates a series of dazzling, gravitydefying action set pieces including a skirmish on a mountaintop and the long-awaited face-off between the iconic Chinese and Hong Kong leads.
A picturesque bamboo forest recalls a pivotal sequence from House Of Flying Daggers, closely following the obligatory skirmish in a busy teahouse, which lies in tatters by the end of the fast-paced confrontation.
The Forbidden Kingdom is hugely entertaining and self-consciously daft, hung loosely on a fantastical yarn that incorporates elements from various well-known legends and novels.
After a prologue to explain the mythology of The Monkey King (Li), the film begins in Chinatown, New York, where kung fu-crazy misfit Jason (Angarano) often goes to rifle through DVDs at a pawn shop run by doddering Old Hop (Chan).
"You watch too much Hong Kong Phooey," jokes the owner, amused by the schoolboy's passion for obscure martial arts films.
Unfortunately, weakling Jason is a prime target for a gang of bullies who use the youngster as bait to force their way into Old Hop's shop, fatally wounding the owner.
With his dying breath, Old Hop instructs Jason to return one item - a golden staff - to its rightful owner, the legendary Monkey King.
The boy flees with the staff and in the ensuing chase across the rooftops, Jason is magically transported to ancient China, where the Jade Warlord (Chou) seeks the talisman in the boy's possession.
Thankfully, drunken master Lu Yan (Chan again) rescues Jason from the warlord's minions and begins to tutor the schoolboy in the art of fighting so he can fulfill a prophecy and deliver the staff to Five Elements Mountain.
The unlikely friends are joined by the enigmatic, dart-wielding Golden Sparrow (Liu) and the Silent Monk (Li again), who also hopes to release The Monkey King from incarceration.
Meanwhile, the Jade Warlord promises an elixir of immortality to the White-Haired Demoness (Bingbing) if she can thwart Jason and his merry band, and retrieve the staff.
The Forbidden Kingdom is a rollicking romp for the whole family, playing Jason's Rocky- style training under Lu Yan and the Silent Monk for laughs.
These sequences are interspersed with some lively banter between Chan's mentor and Angarano's wet-behind-the-ears protege, who is summarily dismissed by the Silent Monk because of his skin colour.
"We are all the same inside aren't we?" counters Lu Yan angrily, emphasising the film's central message about finding the hero within.
Director Minkoff barely pauses for breath between the fights, building to a spectacular final showdown awash with clashing swords, gravity-defying acrobatics and explosive computer effects. Fans of both Li and Chan will be more than happy with the actionpacked movie, which has a relatively easy-to-follow plot and, as expected, fab effects.