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"Shanghai Knights" Movie Review
Sequelitis Strikes Again

Fann Wong, Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson
in "Shanghai Knights."
©2003 Touchstone Pictures

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“Shanghai Noon” took the unlikely pairing of martial arts wizard Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson (an actor not known for his fighting skills) and created a buddy movie with bite. The two disparate stars worked tremendously well off of each other onscreen to the delight of audiences of all ages (and even the delight of non-Jackie Chan fans). That film's success spawned “Shanghai Knights,” which re-teams the daring duo for more misadventures in foreign locations. Unfortunately for fans of the first film, the second collaboration suffers the fate of too many sequels - it doesn't come close to capturing the fervor and zeal of the original.

While the first movie was wild, rowdy and hilarious, “Shanghai Knights” plays like a duller, toned down version of “Noon,” unable to overcome it's own predictability and uninventive storyline. One of the most entertaining aspects of “Shanghai Noon” was the poking and prodding Chan and Wilson did to learn about each other. This time around, they know each other's quirks so there are no real surprises for either the characters or the audience.

The movie isn't entirely bad; it's just not exciting enough to propel itself over the recycled material. There are half a dozen scenes that do work, and which elicited hearty laughter from the audience. In one of the most entertaining scenes of the movie, Chan flies, flips, kicks and uses umbrellas a la Gene Kelly, in a fight sequence that must be seen to be fully appreciated. But even while that amazingly choreographed scene plays out, it's nearly impossible to shake the 'been there done that' undertones of the film. The joy so evident in the original is seriously lacking in this follow-up.

This time around, Chon Wang (Chan) and Roy O'Bannon (Wilson) are off to London to hunt down the men who killed Wang's father and stole a precious Chinese artifact. Meeting up with Chon's beautiful sister, Lin (Fann Wong), the trio uncovers a conspiracy to kill the royal family, a plot that would place Chon's father's killer next in line for the throne. Romance blossoms between Roy and Lin, the plot twists toward the inevitable ending, and the movie plays out with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

As Chon Wang's sister, Fann Wong is deadly, gorgeous, and can more than hold her own in the acting and fighting scenes opposite Chan and Wilson. She's a refreshing addition to the cast, stirring up minor tension between Chan and Wilson's characters, and providing a female champion to root for. Wilson plays the cad with aplomb, but even he can't bring much enthusiasm to the often-lifeless dialogue. And it almost goes without saying that Jackie Chan is once again entertaining as the reluctant hero.

“Shanghai Knights” fails to capture the heart of the original. It's not until the credits role and the outtakes play that the spirit of fun evident in “Shanghai Noon” emerges in this somewhat stale sequel.

Overall Grade: C

"Shanghai Knights" is rated PG-13 for action violence and sexual content.

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