Shanghai Noon was fairly standard-issue Jackie Chan period fare until the arrival of Owen Wilson, who established himself as a bankable movie star while playing a beatific cowboy dreamer who couldn't be more anachronistic had he been wearing a Hoobastank T-shirt and talking on a cellular phone. Chan, who sounds and looks uncomfortable delivering more than a few lines in English, found the perfect screen buddy in Wilson, who looks like he could improvise smart, funny dialogue for months at a time. Wilson and Chan's chemistry helped make Shanghai Noon a huge international hit, prompting an obligatory sequel. Thankfully, Shanghai Knights has one major advantage over its predecessor: While Noon lumbered on for quite a while before introducing Wilson, Knights wastes little time in reuniting its two stars. Just as Shanghai Noon was boilerplate Chan until Wilson's arrival, Knights is in many ways a typical sequel, albeit one that offers a change in locale, new characters, and so many historic English landmarks that the British tourism board could have served as the film's location scout. Knights' thin plot sends Chan and Wilson to London in search of a priceless royal heirloom and Chan's sister. The quest places the mismatched pair at odds with a nefarious heir to the throne, but as usual, the script and plot are mere excuses for Wilson's laconic wisecracks and Chan's mixture of action and comedy. There's a greatest-hits element to the latter's fight scenes here, but while his clashes are pastiches, they're at least lively and inventive, expertly blending his flair for physical comedy, ballet-like grace, and high-kicking acrobatics. Shanghai Knights coasts heavily on Chan and Wilson's charm, which would be a big problem if those prodigiously gifted stars weren't taking on roles that fit like two pairs of comfortable slippers.
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