Jack (Jackie Chan) is an archaeology professor who, along with his assistants, teams up with Ashmita (Disha Patani), an Indian Professor to locate India’s lost Magadha treasure. A series of globe-trotting adventures take place as they compete with Randall (Sonu Sood) and his mercenaries, and one of their own, Jones Lee (Aarif Rahman) to find the diamond artifact known as the “Eye of Shiva” that will lead them to the treasure.
The difficulty when reviewing a new Jackie Chan film is the legacy of what has come before it. With a career spanning five decades and numerous classics of cinema, comes a certain expectation. So it is important to judge “Kung Fu Yoga” on its own individual merits, as given Jackie Chan’s age it is impossible to expect the crazy life-threatening stunts that we grew up with, for the sake our own entertainment.
There is now a clear split between the more serious movies that he wants to make, as in “Little Big Soldier” and “The Shinjuku Incident”, and the Chinese New Year pictures which are much lighter and whose principle aim is to entertain. It is in these movies where there is a danger of him becoming the Woody Allen of Hong Kong Cinema. A criticism a lot of movie industries have is how much older the leading men tend to be than the leading ladies, and like the aforementioned Woody Allen, as Jackie Chan gets older his leading ladies are getting younger. It is really apparent in this movie with a 63-year old Jackie cast opposite 25-year old Disha Patani. The result is that there is never really an investment in the characterization and that they are just playing characters.
These movies though, were never defined by their realism and it’s the entertainment factor that they will be judged upon. Whilst it still has moments that feel like a Jackie Chan film, these are only slight. The intricate choreography making the most of the surroundings is in place but it seems to lack spark. The use of CGI is something of a point of contention and the viewer will either accept it or not, depending on their own preferenceσ. The opening sequence felt like a video game cut scene, until the realization that it was supposed to look that way and was just a prologue.
Unfortunately, later scenes involving car chases are so clearly CGI enhanced that you are taken out of the movie, that it’s really difficult to be drawn back in, as they are so poorly done. Only the scene with Jackie Chan and the unwitting accomplice of a CGI created lion comes close in spirit to capturing the love of silent comedy, and is one of the few moments in the movie that is actually engaging.
The essential problem with the movie is that there is an inescapable feeling that something is missing. As a Chinese\Indian co-production there is so much potential and for a movie that preaches the synergy between the two countries, it does very little to develop it, leaving it neither one thing nor the other. The Bollywood production number is perhaps as near as it gets but is too little and too late. Scenes feel like caricatures and the location hopping makes it more of a travelogue . Even the whole idea of Kung Fu and Yoga is not explored in any depth.
As a film, it is passable entertainment and fills the time harmlessly enough but when it’s over it won’t leave much in the memory other than a feeling of disappointment in that it could have been so much more, if more time was spent on its development.
“Kung Fu Yoga” is distributed in Australia by China Lion Entertainment