An embodiment of all things Bollywood, director Nikhil Advani's Chandni Chowk to China interweaves singing, acrobatic dancing and kung fu into this effusive picaresque. The 2 1/2 hour action-comedy mélange follows the emotional growth of Sidhu (Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar), a down-on-his-luck cook, on a life-changing escapade to China replete with comedic snafus and jolting musical outbursts.
Rather than embrace the work ethic demonstrated by adoptive father Dada (Mithun Chakraborty), Sidhu pours his faith into a potato that may or may not resemble the Indian god of obstacles, Ganesh. Lo and behold, two Chinese men turn up with the unexpected message that Sidhu is the reincarnation of a great warrior. Chopstick, a half-Chinese soothsayer relays the memo despite a conviction that Sidhu was a mosquito in his former life. What Chopstick fails to disclose is that an entire Chinese village is counting on Sidhu to save them from the pernicious gangster Hojo (Gordon Liu of Kill Bill), who has a nasty habit of decapitating the unfortunate with a flick of his bowler hat.
If the plot sounds a tad trite that's because it is. But, Sidhu is a loveable hero in a manner reminiscent of Steve Martin: Simultaneously world-weary and naïve this bumbling oaf miraculously blunders his way through a poisoning attempt, a slew of unimpressed Chinese villagers and duels with any number of evil villains. Amidst catastrophic errors in judgment and coming into his own as a warrior, Sidhu manages a love affair with the stunning ingénue, Sakhi, played by model and emerging actress Deeprika Padukone.
A Warner Bros. Production, Chandni Chowk to China is well chosen to be the largest Bollywood release in the West to date. With a slim $8 million budget, this is a directorial achievement that completed filming in three chaotic months of travel through India, China and Thailand. Although the humor and narrative arc may prove predictable for jaded Western audiences, both are well executed and it's tough to imagine anyone leaving this farce with a scowl.
Opens today, Friday January 16. Official website: http://www.cc2c-thefilm.com