Cast: Jackie Chan, Sonu Sood, Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur, Aarif Rahim
Director: Stanley Tong
There’s no word better than lazy to accurately describe Jackie Chan’s new film Kung Fu Yoga, in which the Hong Kong action star plays an Indiana Jones-like figure on a quest to unearth long-buried treasure of an ancient Indian kingdom.
From fire-eaters and exotic magicians who perform rope tricks, to multiple cameos by snakes and modern-day princesses in Maganlal Dresswala costumes, the film shamelessly panders to all manner of stereotypes. Yet none of that hurts as bad as the realization that the now-62-year-old martial arts legend may no longer be up to the giddy, death-defying stunts that were the hallmark of his earlier films.
Barring a few scenarios that rely on his trademark slapstick humor and nifty acrobatics, Chan leaves most of the physical exertion to his younger co-stars, a motley mix of Asian and Indian actors who, sadly, have none of his charisma.
Memorable – but only for its sheer silliness – is a scene in which he speeds his way through the crowded streets of Dubai while attempting to pacify an angry lion in the backseat. Sonu Sood, who sports a multitude of gaudy jackets but only one expression, is the villain of the piece, while Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur are the film’s pretty but entirely vapid leading ladies. There’s some pleasure to be had when the gang lets their fancy fight moves do the talking, particularly a sequence in which they’re trapped with a pack of hungry hyenas.
Directed by Stanley Tong, who helmed some of Chan’s most popular hits, including Supercop and Rumble in the Bronx, this film has an unmistakably calculated feel to it, as if scripted and designed specifically to expand the star’s Indian fan base. From throwing in much mythological mumbo jumbo to blatant Hinduism references, the makers of Kung Fu Yoga can be accused of many things but subtlety isn’t one of them.
Sadly for us Jackie Chan himself, whose winning cocktail of go-for-broke physical comedy and life-risking stunt work turned him from a local Chinese star into a beloved Hollywood action hero, appears to be in autopilot mode here. His once impeccable timing is no longer split-second, and gone is that scrappy underdog charm that endeared him to the fans.
The only time I had a good laugh was watching his expressions fly as he sportingly shook a leg in the film’s big Bollywood-style dance number. Kung Fu Yoga is a disappointment for Jackie Chan fans. The actor deserves better, and so do we. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five.