The Adventures of Johnny Tao
by Phil Boatwright

PG-13,  Action/adventure.

FILM SYNOPSIS:  MTI Home Video, the leading independent home entertainment studio, has just released The Adventures of Johnny Tao on DVD.  Directed by former Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Kenn Scott, this family-friendly action adventure comedy features computer-generated effects by Richard Kidd (The Matrix, Titanic and Chronicles of Narnia) and high-flying action sequences produced by Marcus Young (Elektra and XXX: State of the Union).

A Kung Fu Fable...  Johnny struggles to make a living at his small town gas station by charging motorists to see the electric guitar used by his late father, a one-hit-rock and roll wonder.  Legend has it that the guitar, carved in the shape of a dragon's head, was made in part from an ancient spear his father found in the crater of a shooting star.  When Johnny's friend, Eddie, stumbles upon the other half of the spear, he releases an ancient demon that takes over his body, hungry for power and destruction.  Mika, a beautiful Chinese warrior who holds the secret to fighting Eddie and his army of kung-fu, sugar-craving warriors, reveals to Johnny that the only way to stop the evil spirit is to use the first half of the spear - the dragon on Johnny's guitar!  Together, Johnny and Mika set out to fight Eddie and his army, reunite the two halves of the spear, restore peace to the town, and - of course - save the world!

The film stars Matthew Twining (The Frightening, One Life to Live), 5-time Extreme Martial Arts Champion Matt Mullins (Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight), Chris Yen (Black Rose Academy), Kelly Perine (The Drew Carey Show, Under One Roof), Lindsay Parker (Flowers in the Attic), with James Hong (Balls of Fury, Bladerunner) and Jason London (Dazed and Confused, Too Wong Foo...).

PREVIEW REVIEW:  Often, “family friendly” means there’s no cussing.  And sex between the sexes is limited to mooning eyes and a couple of chaste kisses.  But family friendly doesn’t always mean movie quality.  Johnny is a decent fellow who worships his dead father, a kind of Hank Williams-esque singer lost in a plane crash years before our story begins.  And his lady fair is a waitress/civic leader who’s just so perky that at any moment you expect her to suggest they raise money by doing a show in the barn.  But it’s not much in the way of entertainment.

There are some positive messages such as believing that we will prevail over life’s obstacles, and risking your all in the name of what’s right is a noble thing.  But alas, the story is so silly not even Jackie Chan would have signed on.  The budget is minimal and the cast is limited in appeal.  There’s lots of zombie-like action, the lead villain having put nearly the whole town under his night-of-the-living-dead spell.  This leads to several martial arts battles between the forces of good and bad.  Unfortunately, these kung fu fights are even less impressive than the hambone acting or the slapstick humor (the local cop seems to be a lost Three Stooges brother).  I suppose kids will watch it.  Well, if iCarly isn’t on.

DVD alternativeThe Incredibles.  This hilarious, action-packed, animated adventure has a put-upon superhero family now denying their superpowers and living under a government protection plan.  Taking on grown-up themes such as the suspicion of infidelity and a barrage of violent do-or-die histrionics, Pixar Animation Studios and filmmaker Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) incorporate cartoonish slapstick with thoughtful PG-rated wit.