The new Jackie Chan film, Kung Fu Yoga, has two things going for it.
This would-be Indiana Jones is a throwback, in spirit at least, to the kinetic, comedic Chan audiences fell in love with in the ’80s. In addition, as the first major Chinese-Indian co-production — featuring stars from both countries speaking mostly in English but also in Mandarin and Hindi in settings ranging from China to India and Dubai — Kung Fu Yoga doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s going after the broadest, most multicultural market possible. How many other movies feature EDM and a big Bollywood-style dance number?
Chan plays a famed Chinese archaeologist named Jack, who is on the hunt for a secret treasure buried by an Indian dynasty many centuries ago. He leads an incredibly good-looking crew — including characters played by Indian actresses Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur and Hong Kong pop-star/actor Aarif Rahman — to a remote part of India to look for it.
But a dapper villain with the very nonvillain name of Randall (Sonu Sood) and his many henchmen want the treasure for themselves. Kung fu, yoga, lions, hyenas, cobras and some hilarity ensue.
It’s obvious most of the actors aren’t used to working in English as they are so stiff that you’re left to wonder if rigor mortis hasn’t set in early. Also, many of the CGI effects are so patently fake.
But Chan veteran director-writer Stanley Tong (Police Story 3: Supercop) knows what Chan fans want and he mostly delivers.
When 62-year-old Chan gets into a mano-a-mano match-up with Sood, the fight choreography is a nimble display of what made Chan so appealing in the first place. Granted, many of the more athletic moments are handled by the younger actors — it’s Rahman who gets to take on the CGI hyenas — but Chan still has a lot of fight in him.
Kung Fu Yoga isn’t Chan’s best work, but it’s more entertaining than many of his recent projects.
In Mandarin and English with English subtitles
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Kung Fu Yoga
☆☆☆ (out of five)
Director: Stanley Tong
Cast: Jackie Chan, Disha Patani, Aarif Rahman, Sonu Sood
Rated: Unrated (comic martial-arts violence)
Running time: 107 min.