Friday, February 7, 2003
We're told it's 1887, but the haircuts in "Shanghai Knights" keep telling us it's 1987 -- REO Speedwagon, opening a roller rink in Toledo in 1987, to be specific.
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson's coiffures are not credible, but attention to period detail is not the movie's strong suit, nor is it meant to be, since every time Wilson opens his mouth, a Malibu surfer dude comes out.
Like its predecessor, "Shanghai Noon," "Knights" has one foot planted in today's ironic sensibility and only about two toes planted in Victorian London, where it's supposedly set. Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and Queen Victoria are involved this time and, once again, Wilson and Chan are a mismatched set of buddies, cracking wise and solving crimes.
By now, we've had this sort of yin-yang pairing up the yingyang, but Wilson's laid-back hipsterism and Chan's grave athleticism play well off each other as they vow to retrieve a stolen Chinese artifact, come hell or Shanghai water.
"Shanghai Knights" doesn't have the verve "Shanghai Noon" did. It's long on attitude and short on plot or characterization, but it does include a clever, graceful homage to that Victorian classic "Singin' in the Rain," an amusing reference to those Victorian moptops, the Beatles, and plenty of the treasured Victorian pastime of drop-kicking thugs while hanging off ladders.
In other words, it's a movie that has a knack for anachronisms.