Here's my review for dvdsnapshot.com!
Upon arrival at an elite martial arts conservatory, a group of young boys swear allegiance to each other and form a gang. A decade later at graduation, they unexpectedly cross paths with an evil martial arts master and foil his kidnapping plan. Now, they must put their combat skills to the test in order to defeat this enemy and save their brotherhood.
In the US, Jackie Chan has become synonymous with lighthearted martial arts films that exhibit a sense of humor coupled with dazzling action choreography. Chan executive produced the Sammo Hung starring, family-friendly Wushu and it has that same flavor. From the beginning the action sequences defer to gentle humor as Hung plays widowed father to two sons who join a trio of kids at a "martial arts conservatory."
The box cover copy is misleading to sell this like a crime thriller. If anyhting the crime subplot is almost extraneous. Instead of being about defeating "the brotherhood," Wushu is a "learning and growing through athletics" film. More Karate Kid than Karate Kid II. In fact, the first fifteen minutes play like a children's film until a creative sequence showing the children turning into their older counterparts by turning flips. Wushu may be "the ancient art of fighting," but they're more students of gymnastics. Even during their first combat exhibition you expect them to break out those long, twirling ribbons on sticks. A throwdown with the Bring It On girls feels almost in the offing.
(The "group of young boys" is also misleading as the team's fifth member is a girl who's just as agile in combat as the boys are.)
This "Scooby Gang" (The "Jing Wu Men," derived from Bruce Lee's film Fists of Fury) have cute teen romance and visits to amusement parks and movie sets while they foil a team of nefarious child kidnappers. Even Kung Fu Film legend Hung gets in on the action and proves one can still be incredibly nimble even with a great deal of middle-aged spread. He's still a pro, even if it's clear they're making some cheats to help him sell what used to look effortless. The rest of the cast are graceful athletes that prove that, even with a little wire-work cheating, there's a great deal of beauty and dance in martial arts.
The last third of the film gets a little darker as our leads go from exhibition fighting to real combat, making the end, where they wrap up their athletic competitions in a time-worn fashion. You know who'll triumph, but the ride's still enjoyable.
Wushu is presented in a widescreen format with audio 5.1 Dolby Digital in both English dub and the original Mandarin. English and Spanish subtitles are available. The DVD's special features include a nearly 18 minute behind-the-scenes featurette featuring lots of fight choreography, a featurette on the film's Cannes premier, and trailers for Jackie Chan Presents Wushu, The Spy Next Door, The Forbidden Kingdom, and Lionsgate's Blu-Ray line.
PG-13 for action-violence but tame, the family-friendly, coming-of-age-thru-athletics comedy Wushu reminds that you can enjoy the gymnastic beauty of martial arts without much in the way of real violence. The humor is never saccharine sweet and there's genuine thrills in the action sequences... though be sure to warn the kids not to leap in front of roller coasters or giant, rolling drums.
All in all, Wushu is a pleasure.
(...though I kept picturing Nadia Comaneci wiping the floor with these kids.)