by Dan Persons
No, that title’s not a typo. It’s missing an article, maybe as a favor to multiplex managers who have to conserve marquee letters.
For that matter, I’m not sure what “Adventures” is doing in there either, since Johnny (Matthew Twining) doesn’t do all that much adventuring. The son of one-hit singing wonder Jimmy Dow (get it?), whose magic guitar hangs in the museum/shrine at the back of Johnny’s small-town gas station, the kid takes back seat in a number of the earlier fight sequences, while most of the kick-ass onus falls on agile actress Chris Yen, playing a Chinese warrior dispatched to protect the guitar from an ancient evil determined to possess it. Fair warning: That sounds a whole lot more intriguing than it actually is.
ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY TAO is described as a family action-comedy, and pretty much fills that bill: The proceedings hover around POWER RANGERS terrain, with martial arts and wire-fu replacing rubber monsters and giant robots. The action sequences are generally well done (although, until the third act, Johnny tends to dive into face-obscuring costumes whenever battle beckons — hmmmm, was Mr. Twining feeling under the weather on those days?), while the rockabilly soundtrack that underscores most of the film is a clever touch. But the show never rises above being the kind of thing parents use to keep the kids quiet during long trips in the SUV. Titles at the end suggest that there will be additional installments. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world (I’m dreading the TRANSFORMERS follow-up far more), but I’m not holding my breath, either.
ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY TAO (MTI Home Video, 2007; 90 mins.) Directed by Kenn Scott. Cast: Matthew Twining; Chris Yen; Matt Mullins.