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JACKIE CHAN RESEARCH PROJECT


Seattle Times:

The feet are flying as Jackie Chan's East meets the Wild West

by Mark Rahner
Seattle Times staff reporter
If you see only one karate-Western-comedy this year . . . and there are no other karate-Western-comedies playing at the time, "Shanghai Noon" makes for a nice guilty pleasure outing.

The latest Jackie Chan mismatched buddy vehicle teeters over the Offensively Dumb abyss, but somehow manages to land squarely on the side of being lots of fun.

Sticking with the successful "Rush Hour" formula - and turning out funnier - "Shanghai Noon" doesn't satisfy any unfinished business started by slow-moving yankee David Carradine on the old "Kung Fu" show. Instead, Chan plays Chon Wang (subsequently mispronounced "John Wayne" - a lousy cowboy name, according to one character). He's a second-string Chinese imperial guard who comes to America to rescue his kidnapped Princess Pei Pei. (And yeah, you can see the joke about her name coming like the plume from a locomotive in the distance.)

On the way to deliver her ransom, Chon and his imperial posse are caught in an inept train robbery led by the gentle, whiny Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson from "Armageddon" and "The Haunting"). The job is botched, Chon's uncle is killed, Roy runs afoul of his henchmen, and the two adversaries ultimately team up to evade both the bad guys and the good guys, save Pei Pei and get gold.


Movie review
Rating: ***
"Shanghai Noon," with Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu. Directed by Tom Dey, from a script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. 110 minutes. Several theaters. "PG-13" - parental guidance advised for action violence, drug humor, language and sensuality.
"Shanghai Noon" manages to avoid the pitfalls of other martial-arts-comedy hybrids that aren't enough of either to make them worth the time. One reason is the interplay between Chan - who's always worked his cutesy mugging as hard as his kicks - and the lovably dippy Wilson, who even infused the serial killer in last year's "The Minus Man" with little-boy sympathy. He also possesses the singular trait of not being the irritating Chris Tucker.

Case in point: a bathtub drinking game between the two in a bordello. Chan and Wilson rise above a funny scenario that becomes strained, and they do so repeatedly, despite the direction of Tom Dey, a first-timer from the world of commercials who's unable to remove the contrived feel from any scene.

Screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar were responsible for the vile "Lethal Weapon 4," but they score here with the sheer, brazen, plow-right-ahead obviousness of the jokes - especially subtitled cracks by Indians and the aforementioned pee-pee line, which drew a big laugh at a test screening.

As for Pei Pei, she's played by Lucy Liu of "Ally McBeal," who gets third billing but is left without much to do for most of the story.

There's a satisfying amount of action between the laughs, unlike, for instance, Chan's 1988 "Who Am I?" which didn't seem to know what it was, and dragged on more than 50 minutes before a good fight.

But longtime Chan fans will have to notice that the guy's showing his age. There are far fewer unbroken takes here than in his previous work; and his traditional end-credit outtakes this time are more bloopers than painful stunts gone awry. (See the astounding footage at the end of "Drunken Master II" for a prime example.)

Chan may still be a near-superhuman athlete by any standard other than his own, but he was no spring roll at the time of his 1996 U.S. breakthrough, "Rumble in the Bronx." He was already a huge Asian star by the time of his abortive try to kick his way into the U.S. market in the execrable 1980 action-comedy, "The Big Brawl."

But it's to Chan's credit that he can pick up the slack with his personality. Jet Li, who's scary-proficient now, couldn't do the same thing.

New York Post:

GO WEST, YOUNG CHAN

By JONATHAN FOREMAN

SHANGHAI NOON


A very funny East-meets-Western romp about a Chinese imperial guard who partners up with a laid-back outlaw to rescue a kidnapped princess. It provides a sparkling showcase for Jackie Chan's genius for physical comedy and a breakout role for Owen Wilson.

Running time: 110 minutes. Rated PG-13. At the 42nd Street E Walk, the Union Square, the Lincoln Square, others.

A sure-fire summer crowd-pleaser, and the most enjoyable western comedy since "Blazing Saddles," "Shanghai Noon" is a cheerful, good-hearted delight.

First-time director Tom Dey deftly mixes Jackie Chan's Buster Keaton-inspired genius for physical comedy with Owen Wilson's talent for the deadpan one-liner, to fashion a fast, smart, very funny buddy flick.

It obviously helps that the two stars have such sparkling chemistry, but they are also working from an uncommonly smart, dryly irreverent script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar.

The movie starts in Peking's Forbidden City in 1881. The beautiful Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu of "Ally McBeal") is about to be married off to the fat, toadlike, 12-year-old emperor.

With the help of her English tutor (Jason Connery) she runs off to America, only to be delivered to an evil Chinese traitor (Roger Yuan) who has become a mining magnate using Chinese labor, and who threatens to kill her unless the imperial court pays a massive ransom.

A crack team of imperial guards is dispatched to Carson City, Nev., with a chest full of gold to ransom the princess. Accompanying them only because his uncle is the official interpreter is Chan, as the bumbling imperial guard Chon Wang - pronounced "John Wayne."

The train on which they're traveling to Carson City is robbed by an outlaw gang led by the ultra-laid-back gangster Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), who's really only in the crime game to impress the girls. Because one of his new gang-members is a psychopath who doesn't get O'Bannon's rules of nonviolent train robbery, the heist goes badly wrong.

Chon's uncle is killed, and Chon and O'Bannon find themselves alone and at each other's throats in the desert.

Of course, after various misadventures and brawls, and an episode in which Chon is adopted by a party of Sioux warriors, he and the feckless O'Bannon end up working together to rescue the princess.

Jackie Chan's English is now good enough to showcase the charm and charisma the star has to spare. One of his funniest moments - a drinking scene with Wilson in a bordello bathroom - doesn't even involve any stunts.

There are times, in fact, when you almost wish that the movie took more time to show off his amazing acrobatic abilities (Chan choreographs and performs his own stunts).

Despite all the hilariously anachronistic dialogue, the filmmakers take care to respect the plot and visual conventions of the western.

They deal lightly with issues of race and culture without any of the politically correct point-scoring so common in revisionist westerns. It's also a very well-photographed film that makes the most of some stunning Alberta, Canada, locations.

The lovely Native American model Brandon Merrill plays Falling Leaves, Chon Wang's Sioux wife.


Calgary Sun:

Best in the West

By LOUIS B. HOBSON, Calgary Sun


  If any movie deserves to be a runaway hit this summer, it's Jackie Chan's western Shanghai Noon.

It's a big-hearted comedy with laughs, romance, adventure and some spectacular action sequences.

As he did in Rush Hour, Chan plays a fish out of water.

This time he's Chon Wang (read John Wayne), an Imperial guard at the Forbidden City in Beijing.

The princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) is kidnapped, spirited off to the American West and held for ransom.

The Emperor sends three of his most trusted warriors to pay the hefty ransom and retrieve the princess.

Wang is sent along as a servant, but it's not long before he is separated from his cohorts and in search of the princess on his own.

Wang is a character dear and familiar to Chan. He's a simple man with high ideals and an important mission who becomes a hero more by accident than design.

Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar make certain Wang's efforts are complicated at every turn.

He must scale mountains, square off against outlaws and bounty hunters, battle hostile Natives and face an old foe from his days in China.

Along the way, Wang acquires a Native princess (Brandon Merrill) as a wife and a scheming partner named Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson).

Both play major roles in getting him into and out of danger.

In Wilson's hands, Roy is every bit as endearing a character as Wang.

Roy thinks of himself as an outlaw, but he's really just a dreamer, schemer and womanizer.

When he learns just how big a ransom Wang's friends have for Pei Pei, Roy sticks to Wang like glue.

The interplay between Chan and Wilson gives Shanghai Noon its comic sparkle and some unexpected pathos, especially when their budding friendship is threatened by the prejudice against the Chinese that existed in the Old West.

Chan is an amazing physical comedian and a skilled stuntman. When he combines these two strengths, he's awesome.

Wang's battles with the Natives, bounty hunters and arch enemy Lo Fong (Roger Yan) are mind-boggling. Chan is a special-effect in himself as he spins, leaps and tumbles, all the while delivering and receiving blows.

His charm is that he can always bring moments of humour to even the most dangerous situations.

What's every bit as impressive in Shanghai Noon is that Chan proves himself almost as adept at gentle humour. His reactions to waking up with a wife he unknowingly married in a peace pipe ceremony or getting drunk with O'Bannon are hysterical.

In his earlier American films, Chan relied on shtick rather than sincerity.

This time, he's really acting -- and it's as rewarding for the audience as it is for him.

Wilson is no slouch. He knows how to nurse a joke for maximum effect and his eyes say almost as much as any line of dialogue.

When Roy and Chan try to escape from jail, it's Wilson who scores the most laughs because his reactions to Chan are so priceless.

Liu refuses to let Pei Pei be the obligatory damsel in distress. Her princess is as strong-willed as she is regal and her fists have a fury of their own.

Tom Dey's direction may be unobtrusive, but it's clear he's in control.

He pans wide for the action sequences and pulls in close for the more intimate scenes. The Alberta scenery is as much a character in Shanghai Noon as any of the actors and Dey captures them in all their breathtaking majesty.

Shanghai Noon is so endearing because it's laughing with the classic Hollywood western, not at it.

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