Kung Fu = China. Yoga = India. Combine both and you have the perfect name for a film co-produced by the two countries in a bid to boost trade relations. (In fact, Kung Fu Yoga is the first of the three films to be produced as per the agreement...[shudder]). But it turns out to be a complete misnomer as you sit through the 107-minute mess-of-a-film, which masquerades as a treasure hunt.
Kung Fu makes its appearance but it's nothing you haven't seen before. And that's saying something when you have Jackie Chan as the lead actor. As for yoga, the less said the better. It seems the only two uses of yoga, according to director Stanley Tong's manual, is to enable you to hold your breath underwater and to free yourself when your hands are tied behind your back.
It's not just the title that disappoints you. The script makes you wonder what Tong was smoking when he wrote and directed the film. Archaeology professor Jack (Chan) teams up with Indian researcher Ashmita (Disha Patani) to find the lost treasure of Magadha dynasty. Where there is a treasure, there is bound to be a villain—Randall (Sonu Sood), in this case. What follows is a forgettable and unconvincing cat-and-mouse game between the two sides, which takes the audience to China, Dubai and India.
Tong and Chan have entertained us with films like Police Story 3: Super Cop and Police Story 4: First Strike, among others, in the past. It was Chan's trademark goofiness, along with some impressive display of martial arts, that made him a favourite with film-buffs worldwide. At 62, Chan might have lost quite a bit of both but still has that spark in him. In fact, he, and to some extent, Aarif Rahman (as Jones Lee) and Amyra Dastur (Kyra), are the only bright spots in the film, as far as acting is concerned. The car chase in Dubai, where Chan gets a lion for company, is one of the rarest of the rare scenes in the film that truly entertains you.
If the tepid (and often preachy) dialogues weren't enough, the dubbing in English made it worse. Patani and Sood could very well have been reading the dialogues straight out of a textbook! Sood wasn't even half as menacing as he is capable of (watch the Telugu blockbuster Arundhati, if you haven't already, for proof).
And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, the scene shifts to India. It's 2017, mind you, and not the era of the rajas. And all that you see are a bunch of clichés about India—temples, caparisoned elephants, princesses decked in jewels, snake charmers and the 'great Indian rope trick' (well, the secret of the trick is finally revealed). Groan.
The 'treasure' is finally found, and—spoiler alert—the baddie has a change of heart. And how do they celebrate the happy ending? The whole cast breaks into a Bollywood-style dance number, choreographed by Farah Khan.
Sigh. It seemed like April Fool's Day had come early.
PS: Watch out for Chan's desi dance moves!
Film: Kung Fu Yoga
Director: Stanley Tong
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sonu Sood, Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur, Aarif Rahman