Kung Fu Yoga
aka 功夫瑜伽 aka Gong Fu Yu Jia
Written by directed by Stanley Tong
Jackie Chan is still a legend, and though he’s running past retirement age, he’s still out there punching bad guys in the face. We get plenty of action in Kung Fu Yoga, a sprawling archeological adventure that spans the whole of Asia while not forgetting to be fun on the way. Fans of CGI lion puking will be especially pleased with Kung Fu Yoga. In an era where Chinese blockbusters can be hit or miss, Kung Fu Yoga delivers a win, even though at first glance you would wonder if it could.
Jackie Chan is Jack, the famous Chinese archeologist who is one of the best archeologists anywhere, even though he will repeatedly point out that he’s just one guy and there are many good archeologists in China. Jack is humble, see, but he’s popular enough that the mysterious Ashmita (Disha Patani) has brought an ancient map from her family’s archives that might point the way to the lost treasure of a Chinese army that went to India. We see parts of this flashback in the opening sequence in Playstation-3-o-vision, as CGI Jackie Chan, Aarif Lee, and Sonu Sood battle amidst elephants and nameless troops. Jack and his grad students – Xiaoguang (Zhang Yixing) and Noumin (played by famous yoga practitioner Miya Muqi) snag the son of Jack’s old archeology bud, Jones Lee (Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, and his name is far from the only Indiana Jones reference in the film!) to go treasure hunting! Also Eric Tsang is briefly there because his character owns an oil refinery company that can break through ice. Science and industry, synergizing together!
The heroes throw snow at wolves and discover the lost army, but the jewel that is the key to the lost treasure is stolen by Jones, and the rest of the squad is ambushed by Ashmita’s rival, Randall (Sonu Sood), who claims the treasure his his birthright. Action scenes soon happen in the snow, followed by a brief adventure in Dubai (where things become The Fast & The Furious for a bit, but good to know that most of Dubai’s police force is sports cars!), and finally in India as the treasure hunt reaches its conclusion. The scenes are well mixed with action and humor, and even though they are borrowing from other films, care is made to try to twist things into their own. This could easily be a sequel to Jackie Chan’s older treasure hunting films where he has gone legit.
I appreciate how Kung Fu Yoga takes time in the film to explain various details, like criminals being caught by the police while off camera, characters having visa trouble so that’s why they aren’t in these scenes, or how this Chinese-Indian co-production is totally in line with the various government proposals that it namechecks (sure, the Indian coproducers backed out at the last minute, but the sentiment was there!) There are various yoga tidbits sprinkled around the dialogue as well, yoga being the magic sauce that you need to combine with kung fu for pure mastery!
Ashmita isn’t just some sort of damsel in distress, she joins in on the action scenes, and they make effort to have her fighting alongside Jackie for most of them. It also helps hide Chan getting older, as he can do fancier tricks with her where she does more of the flipping around. There is the scene where Jack fights Randall while Ashmita is held hostage, but Randall isn’t even presented as an actual threat to Jack, the only fear there is if Ashmita gets hurt, something Jack quickly eliminates as a problem. Aarif Lee’s Jones seems more superfluous, he sells an artifact for a bunch of money only to quickly give it back as he’s roped back into the adventure rather quickly. There was probably a way to combine Jones with Zhang Yixing’s Xiaoguang, but you need to have maximum star saturation for fuller market penetration.
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