Between the carefully trained animals and their computer-animated mouths, the movie doesn't have much room for realism; but the 3-D effects are surprisingly effective, and this playful pic earns a pat on the head.
Three actors portray the clumsy-but-limber Li in the years of his arduous training, when he is pulled between a teacher who's inspired by Mao and another who's inspired by bootleg videos of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
This homey construct is warm, exactingly crafted and painted with pop-country tones, but it's lacking a deep foundation where the issues that it raises can resonate. For a movie like that, we may have to depend on the Danes.
On a minute-to-minute level, it's an engaging mystery, the kind that rewards our participation with eye candy and adrenaline shots. But when we pull back for an overview, we see that it's flat and that pieces are missing.
With its references to other properties in the Marvel universe and to classic tales of redemption, this no-surprises summer movie might appeal to those who've been bitten by radioactive spiders or the Shakespeare bug.
It's pure speculation on the filmmakers' part that Gaelic pagans were adorned with bones, blue mud and Mohawks, but the fire-dancing spectacle is a welcome respite from the beefcake of the journey scenes.