A co-production between Chinese and Indian studios, Kung Fu Yoga goes full tilt as an action-adventure with plenty of comedy. In it, Jackie Chan plays Jack Chan (full marks, writers), a world renowned professor of archaeology heading up a team learning all about the Terracotta Warriors. He’s also an expert on the interlinked history of China and the Indian empire of Magadha from centuries ago.
It’s for this reason that an Indian professor brings to Jack a long-lost map that is meant to tell of the location of an even more long-lost treasure that belonged to the empire, and Jack agrees to help lead the search. He also brings in on the hunt the adventurer/tomb raider son of an old colleague who had searched for the treasure his entire life without success, his researchers and other help along the way. The group set off and quickly discover that wherever the journey takes them, there are others that would find the treasure first, and this is only the start.
Western comparisons can be made with the likes of the Indiana Jones films, but also with movies like National Treasure and undoubtedly the Fast & Furious series. Kung Fu Yoga is glossy and globetrotting with almost everyone in it seemingly stepping out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Add to this they’re all ridiculously flexible thanks to either the kung fu or yoga of the title.
It’s of course nothing that original, though it is certainly interesting to have a non-American (or British for that matter) film attempt the same approach to universal global appeal as the above-mentioned franchises. In this it’s actually somewhat successful, and although not nearly as expensive as the F&F films this is not low budget with director Tong also making it look as handsome as possible. He handles the numerous action sequences well as one would expect too. It’s an at-times odd mix of family-friendly adventuring with an occasionally strong level of violence, so is not for youngsters no matter what the posters might suggest.
Chan remains a likeable presence and anchors the film in his good nature. Some things really don’t work (like the computer-animated flashback that opens the movie) and it’s shameless in taking ‘inspirations’ from other films, as well as being mercilessly cheesy. It has a needlessly convoluted plot, with awkward performances at times and is perhaps best suited for fans of Jackie himself (imbued as it is with his signature knockabout style of action). However, for what honestly amounts to a pretty cynical ‘great idea’ some besuited marketing types had, it’s actually not that unlikable. Qualified recommendation: you could do much worse.
KUNG FU YOGA / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: STANLEY TONG / STARRING: JACKIE CHAN, AARIF RAHMAN, ZHANG YIXING, SONU SOOD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW