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Shanghai Noon

Starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson; Lucy Liu
Screenplay by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
Directed by Tom Dey
website: www.shanghainoon.movies.com

IN SHORT: Bust-a-gut funny. [Rated PG-13 action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality. 110 minutes]

Jackie Chan was always different from all other martial arts stars 'cuz he always laced his fights and his films with humor. Lots of it. Between sight gags and his wonderful facial reactions, no language got in the way of the fights and his movies made the international jump well. But we are far past the time in which we could expect a nine point two minutes long battle every nine point four minutes. As I wrote about Rush Hour, and a phrase that applies as well to Shanghai Noon, this is not a "Jackie Chan" flick in the chop sockey sense. So let's take it as a regular movie starring Jackie Chan and see where that takes us.

There are certain things every good Western flick should have. Horses. Injuns. A huge church bell clanging. A showdown on an empty street. A hanging or two. A runaway horse and wagon. A damsel in distress and some pony-tailed Jewish guys in dresses . . . That'll make sense when you see the Shanghai Noon, which has everything a Western is supposed to have, and twice again as many laughs. They're in the script. They're onscreen in visual gags. They're all over Jackie Chan's face.

Beginning in the Forbidden City in the Western Year numbered 1881, we first see the Chinese Imperial Guard and witness their utter devotion and subservience to their Princess, Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). She, by Imperial decree or custom, is to marry the next Emperor of China, who happens to be a pudgy twelve years old boy. Her American tutor says he can smuggle her out of the country and she, thinking it is of her own free will, agrees. Only Chon Wang (Chan) sees her sneak out, but she orders him to let her go. He, obedient servant that he has been trained to be since birth, obeys. What the Princess doesn't know is that the tutor has left a ransom note behind. And the Royal Court sends their best men to retrieve the Princess . . .

. . . which wouldn't include Jackie, but he gets there anyway. On his way to Carson City, where the ransom is to be paid, Jackie picks up a horse, an Indian wife (Brandon Merrill) and an incompetent outlaw companion, Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), whose non-stop mouth offers up all the gags that Jackie's English isn't good enough to provide. He battles both Cowboys and Indians and ultimate bad guy Lo Fong (Roger Yuan) while picking up a nickname and getting a bounty levied on his head. Once you get past the opening sequence, set in the Forbidden City, there's some kind of gag in every scene. Parents should note that there is some language and dope humor that isn't exactly family friendly, thus the PG-13 rating on what otherwise could've passed muster.

As in his last outing, Chan lets his sidekick steal the show. That would be Wilson, sounding like a 90s California dude and taking apart the classic showdown with an internal monolog that is flat out funny. Said showdown also adds a psychotic marshal (Xander Berkeley) who dogs our heroes as they search out the princess. Lucy Liu doesn't get a lot to do, though she does show up some karate chops which'll be on better display in Charlie's Angels later this year.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Shanghai Noon, he would have paid...

$6.50

For the old school fan, it's thirty minutes between each Chan fight but the last one is a whopper.

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