By Owen Gleiberman
Updated January 14, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST
Sheena Sippy

Chandni Chowk to China is the first Bollywood movie to be released in the U.S. in the wake ? of the Bollywood-inflected Slumdog Millionaire. Let’s hope it’s not the last: This galumphing ? elephant of a chopsocky revenge-of-the-nerd quasi-musical lacks the lyrical choreographic beauty that has marked such Stateside Bollywood releases as the gorgeous Lagaan (2002). (It also lacks the demented slapstick ingenuity of Stephen Chow’s 2005 Kung Fu Hustle.)

India’s biggest action star, Akshay Kumar, plays a vegetable cutter from the Chandni Chowk district of Delhi who may in fact be the reincarnation of an ancient Chinese warrior. The movie is two hours and 34 minutes long, ? and for two hours of it — before he embraces his Destiny — Kumar sputters, weeps, screams, mugs, worships a potato he thinks is a god, weeps some more, and generally carries ? on in the hysterical fashion of a Hindi Roberto Benigni. Then everything goes all Karate Kid — though the fights are anything but kicky. There’s one mildly insane disco-cheez dance number (don’t get your hopes up — it’s the only full-on musical sequence), plus a villain with a flying derby á la Oddjob and a heroine who looks like Beyoncé. It all makes you want to see a Bollywood movie, all right — a good one. D