There's this to say about "Shanghai Knights": Cast and crew tried with enormous enthusiasm to put on a good show.
They just didn't put much thought into what they were doing as they made the sequel to the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson buddy picture "Shanghai Noon" - beyond making sure that Chan prances up a storm in the film's technically impressive but excessively stagy action sequences.
Director David Dobkin ("Clay Pigeons") and screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who wrote "Shanghai Noon," this time send the boys to 1880s London on a mission to prevent conspirators from stealing the thrones of England and China.
While holding the reprisal of gags from the original Old West romp to a minimum, the filmmakers drown the sequel in the sort of anachronistic gewgaws that helped make "Shanghai Noon" a refreshing frolic.
"Shanghai Knights" is up to its breastplates in contemporary music and chronologically distorted references to 20th century technology, personalities, even Hollywood lingo. Most of it is not terribly bright, though, and the movie's extravagant allusions work with only scattershot effectiveness.
The movie opens in China with a fierce martial-arts sequence in which mildly dastardly villain Lord Rathbone (Aidan Gillen) swipes the emperor's imperial seal and murders its keeper, the father of Chon Wang (Chan). Wang's sister, Chon Lin (Fann Wong), no martial-arts slouch herself, chases Rathbone to London, seeking vengeance.
Cut to Carson City, Nev., where Wang's the sheriff and all the bad guys have been rounded up. Wang learns of his father's death and sets off to find "Shanghai Noon" compadre Roy O'Bannon (Wilson) to collect his share of the fortune they gained in the first movie so he can pay his way to join sis in London.
Roy's still Roy, profligate and roguishly two-faced, so Wang finds no sign of his loot. After one of the movie's most rousing comic fight scenes, in which Wang dukes it out with a gaggle of Keystone Kop stand-ins inside a revolving door, our heroes stow away aboard ship to England.
Once there, the movie's fishes-out-of-water hijinks click now and then but often are as tepid as a straight-to-video, Olsen-twins-in-Europe flick.
The movie rests on the fight scenes, particularly Wang and Lin's final showdowns with Rathbone and a Chinese counterpart (Donnie Yen), the two villains conspiring to grab their respective country's crowns.
Chan dazzles with his nimble footwork and clever incorporation of found objects in the fight choreography. Yet some of the action is too clever and prolonged for its own good, including an homage to "Singin' in the Rain" that's cute for a few seconds but quickly turns forced and affected.
Wilson's befuddled languor - fresh and fun in "Shanghai Noon" and "Armageddon," engaging and off-kilter in "Zoolander" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" - is just tiresome by now. He's an actor in serious need of some range.
The rest of the cast is blandly serviceable, including Gemma Jones as Queen Victoria, Aaron Johnson as a street urchin and Thomas Fisher as a Scotland Yard stuffed shirt with innovative methods of crime deduction (the filmmakers go to some lengths to withhold his full name till the movie's end, but they toss out so many clues, any surprise is lost).