2.5 Stars (out of 4)
Akshay Kumar has found his niche: playing bumbling guys who fall in love with pretty girls while outsmarting villains. He’s played that type of character recently in Welcome, Tashan and Singh Is Kinng, and he does so again in Chandni Chowk to China. Kumar’s good in that kind of role, but I’m ready to see him branch out.
CC2C stars Kumar as unlucky vegetable cutter Sidhu, who gets tricked into leaving the Indian town of Chandni Chowk in order to save some Chinese villagers from a tyrant named Hojo (Gordon Liu). The story is predictable — Sidhu eventually figures out that he’s been duped but takes on the villagers’ problem as his own — but it’s told well.
For the most part, the film is successful. The story is accessible, the fight choreography is well-executed, and the Chinese actors in CC2C are better than non-Indian actors in Bollywood films typically are. Even the movie’s corny running gag (Sidhu’s convinced that the god Ganesh has taken corporeal form as a potato) is surprisingly funny.
But CC2C falls short in a number of ways. Deepika Padukone is underutilized, even though she plays two roles. Worse, every time she appears on screen as the thief Meow Meow, her arrival is marked by an annoying “meow” sound effect.
The sound mixing is the film’s biggest problem. There’s a lot of noise, with sounds of a yelling crowd layered on top of high-pitched music. In a theater, that kind of cacophony renders some of the dialogue unintelligible and is, at times, even painful to listen to. (The theater where I attended the movie usually has pretty good sound, so I suspect the fault lies with the movie’s creators.)
Chandni Chowk to China isn’t great, though it is amusing and certainly better than 2007 Bollywood-Hollywood collaboration Saawariya. But its uneven production and cookie-cutter story will probably keep it from becoming a mainstream hit in America, which is surely what distributor Warner Bros. was hoping for.