Sitting through Chandni Chowk To China is like watching a bomb go off at Claire’s. Shiny add-ons and nifty accessories sparkle throughout the almost three hour production, but there aren’t enough lavishly choreographed dance numbers and weaving, intricate camera shots in the world to overcome a plot more confusing and muddled than The Big Lebowski’s and a protagonist more scatter-brained and annoying than Borat and Benny Hill combined. Chandni Chowk To China tries too hard in all the wrong places, leaving the audience little reason to care about the zany irreverence and masterful Kung Fu. Note to all involved: fixing a clogged toilet with Axe Body Spray doesn’t solve the problem.
Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) is a bumbling, possibly even mentally handicapped cook from Chandni Chowk who gets his ass kicked on a daily basis by his surrogate father Dada (Mithun Chakraborty). Thanks to some wishful thinking by Chinese laborers who can inexplicably afford to travel and a series of bizarre coincidences, Sidhu is mistaken for the reincarnation of an ancient warrior named Liu Shengh. After convincing his buddy Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey) to fly with him to China, Sidhu is robbed by a famous Indian spokeswoman (Deepika Padukone) who’s own father, a former police officer, was viciously silenced by a nefarious Martial Arts master named Hojo (Gordon Liu) who just so happens to be the guy tormenting the same Chinese laborers who mistook Sidhu for Liu Shengh in the first place.
After arriving in China and being worshiped as a God, Sidhu teams up with the Indian spokeswoman to fight Hojo and her evil twin sister who was informally adopted by Hojo’s family shortly after she was born. Oh, I didn’t tell you she had a twin sister? Well, she does. There’s also a white guy named Joey who looks like an Albino Ajax and a misshapen, indented potato which Sidhu worships as a God. Like I said before, The Big Lebowski‘s more complicated Bollywood brother. All this Six Degrees Of Liu Shengh nonsense comes to a head after a few training montages when Sidhu decides to battle Hojo himself to save both the spokeswoman’s family and the seemingly indentured servant villagers. At one point, a man is also killed with a black top hat. Yes, just like that statue after Bond and Goldfinger‘s golf match.
I really wish I could recommend Chandni Chowk To China specifically because of how hard it tries. Nothing about this film plays it safe. Villagers randomly break into song and dance after an impromptu battle. A man fights off a handful of Bruce Lee wannabees while holding a baby. A fly is swatted on the camera itself, creating one of the most visually stimulating cut scenes I have ever seen. The fighting is energetic, even chaotic at points. But in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters because the only character who isn’t a cardboard cutout is a whiny Philistine.
Sidhu is probably the most ignorant mouth breather ever given his own film. He burns lottery tickets, worships a goddamn potato, and cries no less than twenty-five times during this film. Twenty-five. And the problem, the overwhelming menace stemming from these un-Chuck Norris-like displays is awkwardness. You can’t weep because you’re an incompetent buffoon who drops vegetables for a cheap laugh and then expect the audience to sympathize three minutes later when you make the same stupid, mopey face about the death of a friend. It doesn’t work. Charlie Chaplin didn’t wipe out and then immediately deliver pointed soliloquies to Mabel Normand. It’s a problem of tone.
Bryan Singer didn’t cast Al Bundy to play Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects. Steven Spielberg didn’t cast McLovin to play Han Solo in Star Wars. Mark Waters didn’t cast Dirty Harry Callahan to play that fat kid in Mean Girls. I’m on board with unlikely, unprepared everyman’s forced into dangerous situations; dense, mindless dipshit goofballs trying to save the day--not so much.