If you don't get a chance to see "The Medallion" before it leaves the theater, here's a tip on where to find entertainment of the exact same caliber. Same star, same genre, same quality of script.

It is called "Jackie Chan Adventures." It airs at 9 a.m. Saturdays on the Kids WB network.

It's a half-hour cartoon show.

Time was, the opening of a new Jackie Chan movie was cause for minor excitement. The Hong Kong action star has been compared to screen pioneers Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd for his wildly inventive style of combining stunts and comedy. Audiences expect to gasp in wonder that a human being can perform the feats Chan does.

In "The Medallion," Chan crosses over from pure action to fantasy, with most of the stunts performed on wires in the tradition of Asian productions whose storylines include a metaphysical element.

Here, Chan plays a Hong Kong police inspector on the trail of a European smuggler named Snakehead, played by Julian Sands ("Boxing Helena," "The Killing Fields"). Snakehead kidnaps a young boy from a Buddhist temple, along with an ancient medallion, and brings them to his castle in Ireland.

Legend tells that the boy and the medallion together can wield the power to raise the dead and grant superhuman powers.

To demonstrate to viewers that it is no fairy tale, Chan gets to undergo a poignant death scene, and then a fairly funny resurrection. From that point, it is all special effects and broken furniture as Chan finds out he is endowed with super strength and super speed ... and he is immortal to boot.

But watching Jackie Chan defy the laws of physics via wire stuntwork and computer-generated imagery is like using an H-bomb to squash a spider. Chan is enough of a special effect all on his own - when it becomes obvious he is getting some outside help, the audience loses interest.

So it's up to the supporting cast to keep things moving. Claire Forlani does a nice turn as Interpol agent Nicole James, an old flame of Chan's, who is at his side ready with a high kick or two when the bad guy's minions appear.

Julian Sands gets high marks for villainy, blending a suave exterior with a seething intensity as he too experiences the medallion's supernatural powers.

The vote is still out on whether popular British comic Lee Evans ("There's Something About Mary," "Mouse Hunt") steals the show or sends it to its grave as the self-important but bumbling Interpol agent Arthur Watson. Some of his character's quirks may bring a smile, but other situations leave him storming haplessly for several seconds too long, as if the filmmakers were expecting viewers' laughter to die down.

The production is rather rough around the edges. Many of the Asian actors (including Chan himself on occasion) are clearly speaking dialog that's different from the speech on the soundtrack. Thankfully, the sound engineers have matched the dubbed voices to the rest of the audio and there's no "voiceover" effect.

And from the choppy, unfinished plot, it is quite clear that several scenes were cut from the final version, even before they are shown in the outtakes during the final credits.

If you're a fan of Saturday morning cartoon shows, go ahead and plunk down your money for "The Medallion" - you won't be disappointed. But for those of us who've graduated to a little more sophistication to our weekend TV ("Mystery Science Theater 3000" is still on in reruns!), take a rain check on this Jackie Chan movie and wait for the next one. I guarantee it won't be long.

"The Medallion"Rated - PG-13

for action violence and some double entendre

Starring: Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani, Lee Evans and Julian Sands

Director: Gordon Chan

Length: 90 minutes

Now playing at: Astoria Gateway Cinemas, Cannes Cinema in Seaside and Neptune Twin Theatres in Long Beach, Wash.

Short take: Jackie Chan's latest action/comedy vehicle propels him into the fantasy genre as he plays a Hong Kong cop whose encounter with a legendary medallion endows him with superpowers. For someone whose stuntwork is already close to superhuman, the special effects are redundant and boring, and a choppy story and uneven supporting performances drag down this silly, cartoonish movie.

Rating: 2 stars

Rating system:

4 stars: Absolutely the best

3 stars: Good, solid entertainment

2 stars: Wait for the video

1 star: Don't waste your time

Movie Trivia: What was the original title of "The Medallion" before its American release?

Movie Trivia answer: "Highbinders," referring to a class of criminals in Chinese society.


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