Shanghai Knights (2003)

(In theaters, February 2003) This ordinary follow-up to 2000’s Shanghai Noon takes the Jackie Chan / Owen Wilson duo away from the wild west and drops them in Victorian London. Various hijinks ensue, this time more focused on straight comedy than all-out action: Chan, after all, is getting older. It’s all fun and entertaining, but the discomfort comes from seeing an original situation being churned in boring limpness. There are winks and nods to Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper and other period icons… but they’re lazy and witless. After dozen of clever steampunk books playing around with the Victorian era, it’s hard to be amused by dumb name-dropping. Laziness is indeed the style of comedy as practiced here; most of the gags can be seen coming miles away and aren’t very funny anyway. Oh well. Shanghai Knights isn’t terrible, mind you; just dull and ordinary. The ending is overlong. Anachronisms abound, but you’d expect that, right? Even the bloopers have a forced air, including a cell-phone bit that surely sounded contrived. At least for Jackie Chan fans, it’s a definite step back in the right direction after the horrible The Tuxedo.

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