Film review: Warriors of Virtue

Published: Friday, May 9 1997 3:59 p.m. MDT

"Warriors of Virtue" is really just "Teenage Mutant Ninja Kangaroos." Honest. Although it owes a lot to many other movies as well (ranging from "The Wizard of Oz" to "Return of the Jedi" to "The NeverEnding Story").

The plot here — which is ridiculously complicated for a kids' picture — has a young boy named Ryan (Mario Yedidia, who resembles Elijah Wood) dreaming of playing football, but he's hampered by the brace on his leg. To pull him out of his funk, a philosphy-spouting, kung-fu kicking cook (Dennis Dun, who is great but disappears all too soon) gives him a magic book.

Later, when Ryan finds himself in a precarious situation with some local tough kids, the book is instrumental in spiriting him away to a fantasy world, where his leg is miraculously healed.

There, he meets up with five kickboxing kangaroos — the Warriors of Virtue — each empowered by one of the elements (water, metal, wood, fire and earth). But when Ryan arrives, they are separated. The book would help, but it seems Ryan lost it to an evil wizard named Komodo (Angus Macfadyen), who is draining the local lifesprings to keep himself young.

Komodo can't use the book without Ryan, so he sends his minions (a pair of twin stooges and a nasty Asian version of Elvira) to capture him. And eventually the five "roos" come together to help Ryan and defeat Komodo while dispensing heavy-handed wisdom about the environment, finding one's inner self and kicking the tar out of bad guys who steal your lifespring.

As with the recent "Turbo," this is handled with over-the-top comedy that would make Jim Carrey wince. Macfadyen sets the tone, mugging wildly, screaming many of his lines and leaping about as if he's dropped a match in his robes. He's ludicrous, but he's not funny.

For some reason, respected Chinese action director Ronny Yu ("The Bride with White Hair") has filmed the action scenes in a herky-jerky fashion, which lends a chaotic, stop-motion animation feel to the proceedings. It's most annoying.

And the kangaroo makeup will give you new respect for the "Planet of the Apes" movies — and those were made more than two decades ago!

Worst of all, the film contains a number of things that are inappropriate for the kiddie crowd, including a female lead (Marley Shelton) who at first seems childlike, then becomes a sultry woman in a plunging nightgown, and a profane punchline when Ryan is unable to read the book to Komodo.

"Warriors of Virtue" is rated PG for considerable violence, some profanity and some vulgar gags.

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