Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Forbidden Kingdom is Mixed Martial Arts; Forgetting Sarah Marshall is Memorable

Also: 88 Minutes times out.

by | April 17, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a martial arts extravaganza (The Forbidden Kingdom, starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li), a painful breakup (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell), and a race against time (88 Minutes, starring Al Pacino and Alicia Witt). What do the critics have to say?

Martial arts fans have long dreamed of the day Jackie Chan and Jet Li would team up. Well, the wait is over, and critics say The Forbidden Kingdom, while not perfect, is solid matinee fare, with top-notch performances from the stars. Kingdom tells the story of Jason (Michael Angarano), the target of bullies who is magically transported to ancient China, where he joins Chan and Li on a mission to save the Monkey King (Li again) and defeat and evil warlord. The pundits say Kingdom isn’t perfect; the plot sags a bit between action scenes. But they also note that the action scenes are exhilarating, filled with staggering athleticism and more than a little humor, with Chan and Li in fine form as usual. At 53 percent on the Tomatometer, this Kingdom may not be heavenly, but it’s certainly not forbidding. (Check out our interview with Jackie Chan here, and take a look atthis week’s Total Recall, in which we count down the 20 greatest fight scenes of all time.)

After the disappointing Drillbit Taylor, the Judd Apatow comedy machine is back on track with Forgetting Sarah Marshall.Jason Segel stars as a musician who goes off the rails after his TV star girlfriend (Kristen Bell) dumps him; to clear his mind, he flees with friends to Oahu — and runs into his ex. The critics say Sarah Marshall is a cut below Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it contains Apatow’s patented mix of gross-out gags and sweetness, and features strong performances throughout. At 82 percent on the Tomatometer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t just Certified Fresh, it’s one of the best-reviewed wide releases of the year so far. (And check out ourSarah Marshall field guide, complete with photo gallery and quotes direct from the stars.)

There can be little doubt thatAl Pacino is one of American cinema’s greatest performers. However, even legends can have off-days. And, boy oh boy, do the critics think 88 Minutes is off. Pacino plays a college professor/ forensics expert who receives a death threat informing him he has — you guessed it! — 88 minutes to live. As a result, he must use his wits to narrow down the possible suspects who might want to take his life. The pundits say Pacino is fine, but with preposterous plotting and poorly-staged action sequences, 88 Minutes is loaded with unintentional comedy. At 15 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s out of time. And it’s Pacino’s second-worst-reviewed topliner ever, behind only the notorious Revolution (eight percent).

Also opening this week in limited release:
First Saturday in May, a documentary about the Kentucky Derby, is at 80 percent.
The German import Four Minutes, a drama about a bond between a female prisoner and older piano teacher, is at 73 percent.
Beyond the Call, a doc about three men who deliver humanitarian aid to some of the world’s most dangerous places, is at 50 percent.
Zombie Strippers, a story of a deadly virus infiltrating a strip club starring Jenna Jameson andRobert Englund, is at 45 percent.
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, gonzo documentarianMorgan Spurlock‘s examination of Middle Eastern politics, is at 40 percent.
The Life Before Her Eyes, starring Uma Thurman as the survivor of a school shooting, is at 39 percent.
Anamorph, starring Willem Dafoe as a detective who’s investigating an art-obsessed serial killer, is at 20 percent.
And the doc Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein‘s attack on opponents of Intelligent Design, is at nine percent.

Finally, we’ve saved the last dance for Bloody Matthias and agtatoo, who came the closest to guessing Prom Night‘s 10 percent Tomatometer. Mad props, peeps.

Recent Jackie Chan Movies:
20% — Rush Hour 3 (2007)
31% — Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
67% — New Police Story (2004)
18% — The Medallion (2003)
65% — Shanghai Knights (2003)

Recent Al Pacino Movies:
70% — Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
20% — Two For the Money (2005)
71% — The Merchant of Venice (2004)
43% — People I Know (2003)
43% — The Recruit (2003)