Only the man's deft and dangerous punch never delivers the punch line, as this sequel to 2000's Shanghai Noon can no more find a joke than Wilson can deliver a line without sounding like he just took a toke. The movie exists not because it must, not because its writers (Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, responsible for the first movie) came bearing amusingly fresh jokes and fleshed-out characters and inventive situations, but because any Chan movie that makes money inevitably spawns a franchise. Hence the forthcoming Rush Hour 3, a title that sounds more like a threat.
If you remember Shanghai Noon, and more likely you recall the dozens of horse operas from which Millar and Gough looted like bandits on a rampage, this one's little different, save for two things: It takes place in 1887 England, allowing for copious jokes about rotten teeth, the Queen's Jubilee celebration, cars driving on the wrong side of the road (years before automobiles were on London streets, mind you), the Brits losing the Revolutionary War, the stoicism of Buckingham Palace guards, and awful food; and there's not a single laugh-out-loud joke to be found in its attempt to wring still more humor out of the culture-clash scenario that's become a staple of Chan's made-in-the-U.S. buddy pictures.
What's most distressing is that Wilson -- co-star and co-author of Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums, films of authentic voice and genuine emotion -- keeps showing up in movies that barely feel written at all. His is quickly becoming a résumé of distressing mediocrity, of multimillion-dollar paychecks doled out for food-stamp movies. How else to explain his involvement in Armageddon, Behind Enemy Lines, The Haunting, and, most recent and most unfortunate, I Spy, except to say there's long green to be made from appearing in movies short on everything?