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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Lampooning London
by Betty Jo Tucker

Umbrellas, lemons, vases, and revolving doors – what do these relatively harmless items have in common? I won’t keep you in suspense. They’re among Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu comic weapons in Shanghai Knights, a rollicking sequel to the hilarious Shanghai Noon. This time Chan and co-star Owen Wilson poke fun at Merrie Olde England. Happily, in their second film together, they emerge again as one of filmdom’s most watchable duos.

"I really liked getting back into this role and teaming again with Owen," Chan says. "We became friends during the making of Shanghai Noon, and it’s easy now for us to find our rhythm and play off each other. He takes care of the funny lines and I handle the action, which is oftentimes funny as well."

Indeed, Chan and Wilson seem perfectly cast as the always honorable Chon Wang (pronounced "John Wayne") and Roy O’Bannon, his flawed, romance-minded sidekick. Most of the film’s humor stems from conflicts between Wang and Roy’s different cultures and personalities as reflected by the opposite attitudes Chan and Wilson project on screen. Granted, Roy sometimes leads Wong astray – but both finally end up doing the right thing.

Instead of making fun of the Old West, all things British receive a sound lampooning here, including Sherlock Holmes, Madame Toussard’s Wax Museum, Queen Victoria, Jack the Ripper, Parliament, the Palace Guard, Big Ben, and loss of the colonies in the American Revolution. Wang and Roy (Wilson) travel to England with plans to avenge the murder of Wang’s father by the dastardly Lord Rathbone (Aiden Gillen), who – in appearance – could be Josh Groban’s evil twin. They also hope to find the Emperor’s imperial seal, guarded for hundreds of years by Wang’s family, and return it to its rightful place in China.

Helping them in their mission are Wang’s beautiful sister (Fann Wong), a sympathetic Scotland Yard investigator (Thomas Fisher), and an "Artful Dodger" wannabe (Aaron Johnson). How I loved this supporting cast! Wong looks simply beautiful as she flies through the air a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but she can act, too. Her scowls at the villains convinced me I never want her to be angry with me. Fisher made me laugh at the way his character struggles to maintain dignity in spite of all the shenanigans going on. And 12-year-old Johnson stole my heart with his portrayal of a wisecracking British street urchin with more moxie than the royal family.

Hollywood also takes a good-natured ribbing in Shanghai Knights. There’s something delightfully amusing for fans of Singin’ in the Rain and for people who remember those old Abbott and Costello flicks. Another plus for me was the use of contemporary music in the background. It added to the fun in the same way modern songs enhanced A Knight’s Tale.

Exciting stunts traditionally thrill Chan’s many fans, and Shanghai Knights contains some wonderful ones, plus Chan’s famous outtakes, of course. While we were leaving the theater, a viewer behind me commented, "Those outtakes were funnier than the movie itself." I disagree. Still, I hope no viewer leaves before watching them.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "PG-13" for violence and sexual content.)

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