Jackie Chan in ‘Kung Fu Yoga’ on Netflix

Jackie Chan stars in the China / India co-production directed by Stanley Tong

For Kung Fu Yoga (China, 2017), Jackie Chan returns to the Indiana Jones-inspired adventure comedy of his 1986 hit Armour of God, albeit as an older, more modest archaeologist adventurer, for this co-production between China and India. Jackie is Professor Jack Chan, ostensibly the same character he played in The Myth, who is lured back into the field by a beautiful Indian archaeology professor (Disha Patani) with an ancient map to a lost treasure. They decipher the hidden symbols and set off together—with their young teaching assistants and a wily treasure hunter named Jones (played by Aarif Rahman)—to the ice-covered mountains of Tibet, where they battle a prince (Sonu Sood) who lays claim to the fortune. The title does not refer to some new fighting technique but to the meeting of two cultures: the martial arts of China as practiced by the men in the film and the yoga traditions of India followed by the women, including a Chinese archaeology student who shows off her limber moves while a male student watches pop-eyed and jaw-dropped.

Stanley Tong directed Chan in two of his biggest hits, Supercop (aka Police Story 3) and Rumble in the Bronx, as well as The Myth. His métier is the mix of martial arts and comedy and that’s exactly what this is, but it’s also an ungainly, episodic action film with a big canvas and a price tag to match. It opens on a piece of pure ancient fantasy, like a Lord of the Rings battle in ancient India with second-rate computer animation giving the giant elephants and gravity-defying warriors a cartoonish quality, and then goes off in all directions from there with big set pieces set in the frozen snows of the mountains between Himalayas, an underground ice cave, a private zoo in a Dubai palace, and an underground palace of gold beneath an ancient temple. It also tosses in a car chase with a roaring lion in the back seat (it’s a CGI creation), an escape from a pit of hyenas (more CGI), lots of free-for-all battles with armies of henchmen (the younger stars carry the more acrobatic sequences), plenty of slapstick comedy, a suggestion of romance, and a climactic Bollywood dance number. There’s even a scene right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but at least it’s knowing enough to name-check it.

Chan is no longer able to do the daredevil acrobatics of his youth but he shows off his talents in some marvelous, cleverly choreographed sequences that showcase his dexterity and comic grace. He’s still impressive to watch in action and the film brings in a number of younger actors to handle some of the more gymnastic action scenes. While the stunts are real, the film leans on digital effects for the animal scenes, car chases, and epic sets and they are often rushed and undercooked. And the film is a mess, split between a bunch of characters and jumping genres at every cut, with a juvenile humor clearly aimed at younger audiences.

Not rated but family friendly. The dialogue is a mix of English (the common language between the two culture) and Mandarin with English subtitles.

Queue it up!

Also on DVD and Blu-ray and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Kung Fu Yoga [Blu-ray]
Kung Fu Yoga [DVD]

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On Blu-ray and DVD from Well Go, with a 21-minute “Making of” featurette (with subtitles) and five short promotional featurettes with cheesy graphics scrawled across them.

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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