Chandni Chowk to China (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 153 January 16, 2009
The myth that the crowning glory of Chinese martial arts, Shaolin temple boxing, was actually invented by a visitor from India, lends pleasing symmetry to this 21st-century Bollywood expedition to China for a martial arts/song-and-dance crossover—a landmark collaboration between the mainland and the subcontinent, mediated by Warner Bros. Alas, Chandni Chowk to China, directed by Nikhil Advani, is asymmetrical in the extreme: shapeless, shameless, and slapdash. Based very loosely on the life of its leading man, the late-blooming superstar Akshay Kumar—a former chef and martial arts instructor who was actually raised in the eponymous Chandni Chowk district of Old Delhi—CC2C (as it’s called in India) casts Kumar as Sidhu, a kitchen assistant with some impressive slicing and dicing moves. When a couple of Chinese villagers show up, insisting that the cook is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior who alone can defend their village against the glowering and apparently motiveless tyrant Hojo (played with tree-trunk steadiness by kung fu icon Gordon Liu), Sidhu naturally decides to go. From there, we get cartoonish flying and fighting effects out of Kung Fu Hustle, and a series of increasingly cacophonous and cluttered group-grope fight sequences, which have almost none of the grace and precision that bring the best such scenes close to uplifting song and dance—something a Bollywood filmmaker, of all people, should have been able to grasp.
Nikhil Advani Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun Chakraborty, Gordon Liu, Ranvir Shorey, Roger Yuan, Jun Li Shridhar Raghavan, Rajatt Aroraa Rohan Sippy, Mukesh Talreja, Ramesh Sippy Warner Bros. Pictures

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