Foreign born actors with funny accents have always been favorites among producers of fish out of water themed movies for obvious reasons. Actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Hogan, Jackie Chan and even Jet Li has had their share of experiences with such movies. There are plenty of examples to go around, often sporting such cheesy titles as Crocodile Dundee & Hercules in New York. The humor in these movies are derivative of the foreign character's blunders & attempts to blend in with the locals as seen in both Rush Hour and again with Shanghai Noon. Coincidentally, Shanghai Noon reminds me of an earlier Jet Li movie titled Once Upon a Time in China & America, where he does exactly the same thing Jackie did in Shanghai Noon by coming to America and beating up on a gang of angry cowboys & Indians.
Shanghai Noon also bears somewhat of a resemblence to Rush Hour with Chris Tucker's character being replaced by a less loud-mouthed Owen Wilson. Thankfully though, WIlson isn't much of a high-pitched shrieker like Tucker was in Rush Hour but still does a decent job at being Jackie's wise-cracking sidekick despite his slightly different approach. While I found several of his witty remarks deserving of a laugh or two, they aren't exactly Chris Tucker-esque material, if you know what I mean. There aren't any trademark jokes or lines unlike those found in Rush Hour, which were subsequently recycled in its sequel. Nonetheless, they were still an integral part of the movie, second only to Jackie's instantly laughable antics.
As with most of his movies, I'd be hard pressed to find even a single flaw with Jackie's performance given his natural talent & ability. Alright, so he isn't much of an English speaker like the rest of us are. Some may view this as an unfair handicap but personally, it doesn't bother me to see someone with poor English jumping off trains, beating up 10 cowboys & sliding off tall buildings. Pair him up with a wise-cracking sidekick like Wilson or Tucker and you'll have an instant winning formula that's been proven twice over with the likes of the first 2 Rush Hour movies. This time he gets to play a not-so-bright Chinese Imperial guard who is sent to the Wild West to save some princess who was dumb enough to get herself kidnapped.
To say that Shanghai Noon is a great movie would obviously trigger a mixed bag of reactions from both fans & non-fans alike. Being a longtime Jackie fan, I found the film to be a respectable effort, utilizing the age old formula made famous by a not-so-Chinese David Carradine. Admittedly, the film isn't exactly perfect with it being a little on the predictable side and more notably, without a decent boss character showdown. Some of you might have found Jackie's fight scene against the supposedly menacing head honcho to be satisfactory but for hardened nit-pickers like me, it still doesn't quite live up to other far better offerings found in Who Am I & Wheels on Meals. The in-between fight scenes were meticously choreographed in true Jackie Chan style with him sqeezing through tight spots & jumping over obstacles while attempting to score hits on the clueless bad guys. It's funny to note how clumsy he makes everyone else look from all the high-flying acrobatics, an ability which would have done David Carradine's Kung Fu a world of good.
As a final note, I'd recommend Shanghai Noon to anyone based on my views as a longtime fan. I regret to say that because of this, my opinion may seem biased in some ways. Checking out a number of non-recommending reviews would probably help out in a decision on whether to rent or buy after reading this one. Overall Grade: B
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