A Second Look at the Underrated “The Jackie Chan Adventures”

Full Disclosure: Although Mill Creek Entertainment sent us a copy of “The Jackie Chan Adventures,” the opinions expressed are 100% honest and our own.

Jackie Chan seemed almost fit for his own kids show. While the international action movie star was in fact known for a slew of iconic movies that continue to win the hearts of movie buffs to this day, Jackie Chan’s methods of self defense always made him look like a walking, talking cartoon character—but, you know–deadly. To tap his ever-rising popularity, the WB network eventually gave him his own animated series for kids. Unlike other action stars, it seemed like a natural fit that wouldn’t alienate any of the fan base including the action aficionados. Basing a show on a hero that avoided getting hit as well as avoiding actually hitting his enemies was a breath of fresh air, and it seemed like Saturday morning kismet.

Chan’s maneuvers are basically reliant on being on the offensive, where he not only didn’t often hit his enemies, but used props around him to turn into weapons. While someone like Jet Li would kick and punch, Chan would find ways to avoid getting hit and, if given something like a chair or an umbrella, he would use it to defeat the deadliest villain imaginable. Jackie Chan was a change of pace from the usual action hero who relied on evasion to survive and made running away seem dignified, proving there’s no shame in running away from fights. In a few episodes of the animated series, “Uncle Chan” even helps his young niece Jade learn how to deal with bullies without resorting to terrible violence that he assures her will help no one in the long run.

The Jackie Chan Adventures was a vehicle for Chan to improve his rising American fan base, but the show was also (thankfully) a quality animated series. The series was a hodgepodge of sub-genres based mainly around laugh out loud comedy with a healthy dose of action, adventure, and Eastern based supernatural, and fantasy. Rather than enlist Chan as a movie star, Chan was instead cast as an archaeologist in his new series. Sort of an under-appreciated Indiana Jones, he spends most of his time looking for artifacts while avoiding evil organizations trying to steal them out from under him. Chan is a bachelor who spends most of his days surviving danger by the skin of his teeth.

He also has his own hilarious catch phrases like “Bad Day! Bad Day! Bad Day!” or “I’ll give it back later, thank you!” He works for his crusty old uncle in an antique shop, and their world is rattled when Jackie is asked to care for his rebellious young niece Jade for the summer to help quell her mischief and attitude. If that’s not enough, Jackie is recruited by the top secret Section 13 to retrieve twelve magic talismans before an evil serpent named Shendu does, which will allow him to take form and take over the world. Jackie has to race against time to gather the artifacts while also attending to Jade who not only loves the thrill of the adventure, but has an insatiable rebellious streak.

The series garners some interesting ideas and hilarious characters, not to mention some unique animation. There were a variety of villains like the giant sumo Tohru, international thief Viper, and an expanding cast of heroes like Mexican Luchadore El Toro and his protege Paco. There were also clever references to Chan himself as one episode sees Chan fighting drunken style; some episodes garnered spoof tiles like “Project A, For Astral” a la “Project A” and “Rumble in the Big House” a la “Rumble in the Bronx.” James Sie voices Jackie Chan and dos a marvelous job, channeling Chan’s playful but fierce nature. And while Jackie Chan didn’t actually play himself in the show, it didn’t stop the producers from casting a slew of notable and seasoned Asian actors from playing key roles throughout the series.

Sab Shimono is also scene stealer as the wise Uncle who practices his magic throughout the series. “The Jackie Chan Adventures” hasn’t aged much at all, especially considering Jackie Chan is still a widely adored film star. With the new DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment covering the first season, I strongly recommend the series to Chan fans as it holds up with great action and a fantastic sense of humor. Seriously, the show still makes me roll over laughing.