After "Rush Hour", Jackie Chan was obviously going to be paired up with another comedic actor in another buddy action movie. With "Shanghai Noon", he does it again to moderate success, this time with "Haunting" star Owen Wilson. While Wilson and Chan don't have quite the energy of Tucker and Chan, the two do have a few very amusing moments together.
The film begins in 1881 with Princess Pei-Pei(yes, this does become joke material), played by Lucy Liu, getting kidnapped on her way to the United States and taken hostage in Nevada. Chon Wang(yes, set-up for more bits), played by Chan, is sent along with three guards, to rescue the princess. On the train, they run into a hold-up gone wrong, led by Roy O'Bannon(Wilson). The two end up together trying to save the Princess.
Chan is obviously more known for his martial arts action, but here he displays a frantic comedic sensibility that's extremely funny. Where in "Rush Hour" he was sometimes overshadowed by the electric Chris Tucker, he proves to be a solid match for the wonderfully low-key Wilson. Except here, the material isn't always working with the two leads. At 110 minutes, there are a few moments where the movie begins to drag out a bit before another strong comic bit appears.
As for Chan, he is able to display his gifted martial arts skills in a number of fight scenes, which are creatively staged and a lot of fun to watch. Liu doesn't have much screen time, suprisingly. The actress will probably get more time in the upcoming "Charlie's Angels", but she certainly isn't the focus here.
During some of "Shanghai Noon", you can almost sense that some of the dialogue had to be improvised by the two main actors - there is a hilarious drinking game sequence, and an inner dialogue from Wilson as he's about to face off against an enemy that are both riotously funny. And there's the other side, where the movie goes a bit too long on jokes about how they pronounce the name of Princess Pei-Pei.(say it to yourself and you'll get it.)
All in all though, "Shanghai Noon" gets the job done and does what it sets out to do - provide solid entertainment. It's not going to win any awards (although maybe an MTV award...), but it's definitely a couple of hours of fun.
VIDEO: I am more than happy to give praise to a studio when they do a great job, even Disney - who has dissapointed a couple of times in recent weeks with non-anamorphic "special editions". I'm more than pleased though, so say that Disney has done a fantastic job with "Shanghai Noon", and it looks stunning throughout. Beautiful scenery combined with great cinematography makes for some great looking images on this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, which has perfect sharpness and excellent detail. Clarity is certainly never lacking, either.
Problems are extremely minimal at most; there is only a very slight trace of shimmer once or twice and no pixelation. The print used, not suprisingly for a film that's only a few months old, is completely free of any sort of marks or scratches at all. Colors are also breathtaking, looking very well-saturated and remarkably rich, with no flaws at all. Black level is solid and flesh tones are accurate and natural.
The fact that Disney can make a film look this crystal clear and do this marvelous a job makes it all the more frustrating when they only choose to offer this kind of effort every so often. They've done beautiful work here, and I'll give them credit.
SOUND: "Shanghai Noon", aside from looking great, also sounds wonderful as well. Bass is occasionally powerful - although not earth-shaking, it certainly has quite a Jackie Chan-sized kick at times. The musical score is also very strong, sounding dynamic and clear, and often very enveloping.
Speaking of surrounds, they are put to very good use during the movie for both the score and some sound effects during the more intense action sequences. If not always an "assault" in terms of audio, one will likely at least appreciate the general quality of the overall sound, which is very warm, very rich and impressively clean sounding. Dialogue (and there are many dialogue-driven comedic sequences) is clear and easily understood. A very good soundtrack that's entertaining.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with pictures from the film put together with cowboy-style backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Tom Dey and actors Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. Dey seems to do a lot of the talking during the discussion, and gives the viewer much of the important information about the production, chatting about where the scenes were filmed and how some of the sequences were shot - he also talks about his views on the characters and story. For this commentary, Wilson and Dey's comments were recorded together, and Chan's comments were recorded separately since he was filming another movie at the time the discussion was recorded. Chan's comments are brief and come in occasionally, talking mainly about his views on film in general and also, talking about how he goes about doing the stunt work he does so well.
It's a very enjoyable commentary, with only a few pauses throughout the movie. The director does most of the talking, but Wilson offers his opinion occasionally, and Chan's comments are edited in a handful of times, as well. Definitely worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes: There are 8 deleted scenes included on this disc, and they can be viewed with commentary from Dey and Wilson. The first scene is actually a pretty major one with Chan on a runaway train - but I won't give away anymore details. The other 7 scenes aren't really anything major (and seem to have been taken out for time), but they are nice to have included on this DVD. Most of the scenes are a couple minutes in length and are of very good quality. Amazingly, the deleted scenes are also in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Featurettes: There are quite a few featurettes to look through on this disc. They are varied in length, but generally last several minutes each and are better than the usual "promotional" featurette. They do talk about the story, etc, but they are informative and specific to the subject at hand.
Making An Eastern Western: Interviews with director Tom Dey and the cast talking about their feelings on making the picture and the story, and also the history of how the movie got made.
Partners Interviews with director and cast about the pairing of Wilson and Chan and their roles in the story.
Jackie's Comedy: A shorter featurette that focuses on Chan's style of comedy and his opinions on some classic comedians such as Buster Keaton and how they've influenced his style. Also, how the star combines his martial arts skills with humor.
Western Stunts, Eastern Style: A featurette that takes a look at the behind-the-scenes production work that had to go into the film's stunt sequences. Interviews with Chan and the director talk about how they worked together to create the film's action sequences. It's really interesting to see how the crew prepared by looking at storyboards and other models to plan out their scenes.
Hanging with Roy and the Kid: On-set featurette that takes a look at the cast and crew preparing for one of the film's action scenes and also generally just having fun. I really like this kind of featurette where we are made to feel as if we're a part of the set and rather than having someone talking, we just get to see the production in action. Comments are at the front and end, but the middle part is cool to watch.
Choo-Choo Boogie: This is a short featurette that takes a further look at the big deleted scenes that I talked about earlier, and shows the effects crew at work preparing to shoot this sequence. Like the "Hanging with Roy" sequence, this is cool in the way that it simply lets us watch as the work goes on.
Action Overload: A short featurette that simply reviews the film's action sequences. Nothing new really in terms of info.
Games: Someone out there really did some nice work creating some fun interactive games for this DVD. "Roy's Revenge" and "Chon's Challenge" incorporate different scenes from the movie into fun games that the viewer has to answer questions for.
Theatrical Trailer: The film's theatrical trailer (Dolby 2.0)
Music Video: Uncle Kracker's "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah".
Final Thoughts: Definitely no complaints here. Disney provides great picture quality and sound quality, and a handful of solid extra features. Along with that, it's a fun and entertaining flick. Definitely recommended.