Kung Fu Yoga is a brash spectacle that makes good on the promise of multiculturalism implied by its title. The film follows an archaeology professor, Jack (Jackie Chan), and his team as they attempt to locate a lost Indian treasure. Complications ensue, of course, and the thin plot is mostly a pretext for shots of sweeping, exotic landscapes and sequences of the energetic, entertaining action for which Chan has long been justly famous.
There is indeed both kung fu and yoga, and the action unfolds in China, India and Dubai. Sometimes it’s a bit like watching a video game, which is probably intentional — the opening sequence is animated, and creates an uncanny effect later mirrored by shots of pristine mountaintops and animals likely rendered through CGI.
While this aesthetic, as well as the cultural sprawl of multiple languages and international settings, is timely, there’s an old-fashioned quality to some of the humor. One sequence finds Jack driving a car with a lion (shades of Bringing Up Baby), and his profession, along with repeated imagery of snakes, recalls Indiana Jones and all the swashbuckling tales that inspired it. The most memorable scene takes place in an ice cavern where Jack fights off attackers, stepping on their feet with perfect timing and jumping from one icy platform to another.
The multilingual dialogue can come across as stilted, and some of the supporting characters seem like afterthoughts, but the icy underground offers escapist visuals that can’t be beat. The final sequence, an elaborate multi-character dance routine, feels inevitable — Kung Fu Yoga is a proudly silly cultural melting pot in which kung fu and Bollywood meet amicably.
Kung Fu Yoga
Directed by Stanley Tong
Well Go USA
Opens January 27, AMC Empire 25
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 26, 2017