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Arts & Culture

Shanghai Knights

Having conquered the West in

Shanghai Noon , Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson now head east to London for

Shanghai Knights (opening February 7 throughout San Diego), a sequel that actually kicks butt.

After being thrown together by fate in Shanghai Noon , displaced Forbidden City guard Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and smooth talking, womanizing outlaw Roy OBannon (Owen Wilson) are now going their separate ways when we catch up with them in Shanghai Knights. Wang is a sheriff and OBannon is trying to scam anyone he can in New York. But then Wangs sister Lin (Fann Wong) informs Wang that their father was murdered by Chinese rebels who stole the emperors seal. Shes followed the killers to London and wants Wang to help her seek revenge. Since OBannon is once again on the run, he decides to re-partner with Wang and visit England, home of the losing team in the American Revolution match up. Plus the idea of meeting Wangs sister is quite appealing to Roy who claims he wants to settle down. Once in London, they quickly run into trouble. They get locked up byScotland Yard, cross paths with Jack the Ripper, destroy Madame Tussards Wax Museum and encounter an assortment of British and Asian bad guys. Along the way, Roy even takes time to fall for Wangs high flying, lethal limbed baby sister.

Shanghai Knights is a breezy, thoroughly entertaining sequel that ups the production values from the first film. And thanks to writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, theres even a clever script that has a field day with anachronisms and in-jokes. Gough and Millar, who created the well-received WB TV series Smallville , have a nice, easy style that plays to the strength of its stars. Their script is helped by David Dobkins assured if not inspired direction. All three seem to have taken a valuable lesson from Chans Hong Kong films: keep things moving, maintain a carefree attitude toward logic and reason, and just have a good time and the audience will followwillingly.

Chan and Wilson have such an easy, good-natured rapport that they simply charm you from the opening scene. Unlike the uneasy partnership between Chan and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films, Chan and Wilson support each other rather than compete with each other. Theres no tension disrupting the comedy here, just two performers who seem like they get along as well off screen as they do on. Wilson, in fact, seems to be the perfect co-star for anyone (note the recent I Spy where he made Eddie Murphy and the film look way better than they were). Hes laid-back, self-deprecating and totally disarming. Chan is getting older and less adept at truly spectacular, life-threatening stunts. (You can even detect a few wires and possibly even a stunt double in some scenes.) But Chan is smart and simply plays up his comedic skills and emphasizes clever fight choreography that harken back to his best Hong Kong work where he mixed equal parts martial arts razzle dazzle with silent clown comedy. The fights and action herefrom a gag involving a revolving door to a tribute to his idol Gene Kellyare all imaginatively staged and a joy to watch.

Shanghai Knights (rated PG-13 for violence and sexual content) is a perfect summer movie in the waning days of winter. It truly brightens up the theaters. So if youre not in the mood for the heavyweight drama of the Oscar hopefuls that dominate the screens right now, then take a break and enjoy the bliss of Shanghai Kinights and the wonderful Jackie Chan. Itll never win an Oscar but then its not meant to. -----