Many centuries ago during the Tang Dynasty in China, a brave general went on an excursion to India as a diplomatic mission to strengthen the ties between the two territories, but along the way there was a major disruption from an Indian warlord who saw to it that the Chinese treasures were lost, as was the general's party. Now, in the present day, archaeologists still search for these priceless artefacts even though that seems to be futile, but China's top archaeologist, Jack Chan (Jackie Chan), still holds out a slim hope he will be the one to uncover them one day. That day may come closer when he is visited by an Indian professor, Amrita (Disha Patani) who has a proposition for him and his team: head over to the Himalayas and see what might be hidden there...
With a title like Kung Fu Yoga, you may have been able to guess this was one of those Chinese co-productions, and with India to boot, two nations with plenty of moviegoers to service with fluff such as this. There was a sense this was as much a diplomatic mission in itself as it was a standalone entertainment, and it was not even that as it essentially followed on from the last film director Stanley Tong had helmed, The Myth, which also starred Chan as an archaeologist called Jack (Jack Chan?! Imagination was evidently scarce when they were naming his character). This could easily be viewed as a film without such a connection, and the most common comparison made for a obvious inspiration was the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There were even callbacks to the Steven Spielberg favourite, such as the message on the lovestruck student's eyelids or the menace that snakes could provide, yet there was a different two-movie franchise that this resembled, and that was the Nicolas Cage stamps over history adventures National Treasure; there was an almost identical cavalier attitude to logic and the story of the past, combined with wacky action sequences, though the humour was far more overt here. In fact, another inspiration may have been Chan's cartoon series of the nineteen-nineties, the Jackie Chan Adventures which took another trip through the plotline of battling bad guys for magic treasure, and that in turn was prompted surely by his Armour of God movies.
There was even a character called Jones here, played by Aarif Rahman as Chan's nephew who assisted him on his journey, and as if they were not enough there was also Amira Dastur as Amrita's assistant and Muqi Miya as another assistant to Chan - more assistants than leads, as it turned out, and they all got more or less the same amount of screen time, our leading man getting on a bit now and needing a little help to get by. He was at the stage where he had claimed for quite a while he was giving up kung fu in his films, and yet kept returning with more, presumably down to wishing to give the multitude of fans across the globe more of what they wanted, and his bank manager too one assumes. He was on cheering form here, managing the stunts and moves, though with faster editing than his classics had employed.
If he didn't indulge in the titular kung fu, and less of the yoga, very much, patient viewers were rewarded with an extended fight at the denouement with the baddie, Randall (Sonu Sood), but before that Muqi demonstrated the yogic poses, as she had become famous in China for her aptitude with the practice, leaving an item of stunt casting, never mind actual physical stunts, here. The comedy was not up to Chan's most hilarious standard, but that said you couldn't be too grumpy watching something his colourful, and the sequence where he shared a car with a lion during a chase generated a good few chuckles thanks to its inherent ridiculousness. Mind you, there were a lot of CGI effects here to enhance the action, rendering it yet more of a throwback to Chan's kids' cartoon endeavours, but nothing so bad as to be actively offensive to the eye, only the animated opening making one wary of what was to follow. There were worse things in the world than a movie that sought to unite two countries with entertainment, and Kung Fu Yoga did entertain, agenda or no agenda. No musical scenes, but keep watching to the end for a danceathon. Music by Nathan Wang.