Shanghai Knights is a very messy movie. I mean, granted, you don't got to see movies like this looking for a deep or tightly constructed plot. That's never really what Jackie Chan has been about. But at the very least you look for something that moves along nicely without tripping over itself or inserting to many cute kids or oddball historical figures into the mix. Shanghai Knights, unlike the much smarter Shanghai Noon, is not a tight movie. It is a fun movie though, paying homage to everything from Singing in the Rain to the Keystone Cops, all built in as typically eye-popping Jackie Chan action sequences.
I'm not saying that the first movie was totally brilliant, but I loved it just the same. Chan's incredible gift for action sequences and physical comedy melded perfectly with Owen Wilson's oddball, slightly snotty, hippie persona. So for this outing they've pulled the pair out of the Old West and plopped them down unceremoniously in merry old England. Along the way they pick up Wang's (Jackie Chan) sister, and set out to stalk the streets of England, hunting down the smarmy British Lord who murdered Wang's father.
On their journey, every British cliché in existence is encountered, from girls with bad teeth to bad times posing as Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps most surprising is that in typically "Scooby Doo" fashion, they also end up hob-knobbing with Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. From here we can only assume they'll move on to a film version of Owen Wilson's character's novel, "Roy O'Bannon versus the Mummy". Hopefully, you can surely tell that this is not a thinking man's movie. Even more so than the original movie, Shanghai Knights requires an extreme brain disconnect, where you just sit back and have fun. Old gags are rehashed, yet still funny, and the play between Wilson and Chan, if you're not too brainy, really kills.
The only real annoyance is the soundtrack, easily one of the worst of the year. Bad background music is a carnal sin in a flick where you're just supposed to gag out a few laughs. Watching Jackie Chan is all about the sheer joy and energy he projects onto the screen. Watching him work, watching he and Owen play off one another is an involving and almost giggly experience. To be distracted from that by such horribly constructed and unevenly placed music is the worst of carnal sins. Turn the music off! In fact, you might not go wrong to simply turn this into a silent picture. Jackie's action-comedy gag more than ever reek of Charlie Chaplin's silent film charm.
You know what this is? This is The Apple Dumpling Gang if Tim Conway knew kung fu. Don Knotts and Dorf may be too old for it, but through the youth of Chan and Wilson, the Apple Dumpling Gang rides again. Only these days they get to curse and hang out with hookers… Mr. Limpett never had it so good. Like those cheesy Disney classics, Shanghai Knights is just cornball fun. Were he younger, this could have been Don Knotts best role since The Ghost and Mr. Chicken! When do we start throwing the pies?