Warriors of Virtue starts with a potentially interesting mood, but bungles it and becomes an inept children’s action film. Ryan (Mario Yedidia) is a normal kid who wants to be accepted. His leg brace makes him an outcast among the other children, but he finds friendship with a local Chinese chef, Ming (Dennis Dun). Ming is a kung fu expert, who applies his martial art to that of cooking, making for some amusing opening scenes. Ming give Ryan a mystical manuscript that might help him find the answers. However, before he has a chance to look at the book, a hazing incident gone wrong sends him to the magical land of Tao. Tao is a dying land, as the evil Komodo (Angus Macfadyen) is sapping the Lifesprings of their power, so that he may have eternal youth. Ryan hooks up with the good guys guarding the last Lifespring. Their leader is Master Chung (Chao-Li Chi), an old wise man who has trained the land of Tao’s last hope, the Warriors of Virtue. The Warriors are Rooz (mutant kangaroos…I guess turtles were already chosen), each representing a particular virtue and a particular element of nature. There’s Yun, the leader, representing water and benevolence. Yee represents metal and righteousness. Lai stands for wood and order. Chi uses wisdom and fire, and Tsun represents loyalty and earth. Now, although each Roo has his/her own set of elements and virtues…it doesn’t matter much. None of the Warriors have much to do with their virtues past their introductions. Even their elements rarely come into play. Most of they time they simply fight like men in bulky kangaroo suits. Director Ronny Yu creates an intriguing mood, but never exploits it. Instead, the film becomes repetitive in its mood establishing shots. The first mock-slow-motion fight in the forest with blowing leaves was interesting…but nearly all the fights look the same. You can’t expect too much character development from giant kangaroos, but the human characters are ciphers as well. Angus Macfadyen has perhaps the showiest role as the villain, but his motives and actions are completely incomprehensible, as is much of his dialogue, which emerges as the words of an insane man. Other characters inexplicably switch allegiances throughout the film, and the comic relief is rather pathetic. The film’s moral messages (listen to your heart, don’t follow peer pressure) seem tossed in as an afterthought, and don’t blend terribly well with the rest of the film. Children who still believe that the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are the apotheosis of all things will probably like the action scenes, but anyone who has outgrown that stage will find the Warriors of Virtue to be rather lacking.
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