Movie Review - Warriors of Virtue
'Warriors': Rangers as kicking kangaroos

Warriors of Virtue BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Warriors of Virtue aims to capture Power Rangers fans -- that is, very young children -- with king-fu-fighting kangaroos and Taoist values.

Set in a crunchy-granola fantasy land, the movie presents five high-kicking 'roos who represent benevolence, wisdom, order, loyalty and righteousness.

Good qualities all, of course, but perhaps a mite too sophisticated for 5-year-olds.

Young viewers are more likely to be attracted to the warriors' symbols -- water, earth, metal, fire and wood -- and to the human child-hero.

That would be Ryan Jeffers, played by Mario Yedida (Jack, James and the Giant Peach), a smart kid with a big imagination and a leg brace (worn for some reason on the outside of his baggy jeans) who longs for acceptance by bigger, cooler kids.

Dennis Dun (Big Trouble in Little China) is impressive in his too-brief role as a Chinese cook who practices kung fu at the wok and befriends Ryan. He urges the boy to seek self-knowledge and gives him an ancient book about Tao.

Warriors of Virtue

(PG; fantasy action violence, brief language)
Mario Yedida, Dennis Dun, Chao-Li Chi.
Directed by Ronny Yu.
102 minutes.
National Amusements, Showplace 8.
Ryan foolishly accepts a dare from loud-mouthed bully and ends up swept into a whirlpool which takes him to a dark, watery place that looks a lot like Yoda's home planet in The Empire Strikes Back.

The locals are under the thumb of a maniacal despot called Komodo (Angus Macfadyen) who guzzles a mineral found in the local ''lifesprings,'' which are running dry.

Ryan makes friends with a treacherous woman (Marley Shelton), and with the magical old master, played by Chao-Li Chi (The Joy Luck Club), who finally introduces him to the Warriors.

They're having their own crisis, as it happens, since one broke the sacred vow never to take a life.

He gets over it, however, as the boy and the 'roos take on Komodo's swarming armies in time for Ryan to learn all the requisite lessons: Drugs are bad; protect natural resources; watch out for peer pressure; don't trust sexy women; and, most important, kick heads when the chips are down.

In the end, despite its spiritual pretensions, Warriors of Virtue offers kids pretty much what they've been getting from the combat-happy Power Rangers.

The costumes may be different, but the flying fists remain the same.

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