KUCCH LUV JAISAA

(PVR Saket and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

It's a case of an interesting idea losing its fizz because of some lacklustre writing. It's a case of some fine actors finding themselves lost in the absence of a proper character graph.

Debutante Barnali Ray Shukla starts off well as she takes us into the world of Madhu (Shefali Shah), a housewife whose marriage has been reduced to a business of diminishing returns. On her birthday, February 29, which comes but once in four years, her husband (Sumeet Raghavan) and kids forget to wish her. After some moments of gloom and indecision, she decides to break free from the rigmarole of a homemaker. She gives herself a makeover, buys a car and treats herself to a sizzling brownie.

At the restaurant she comes across Raghav (Rahul Bose), a gangster on the run. He specialises in forged passports and is duped by his filmy girlfriend (Neetu Chandra). Madhu mistakes him for a detective and on an impulse decides to spend the rest of the day with him. A little too much of a change for a housewife within a few hours!

Then there are some factual errors. The car shown doesn't come for Rs.2 lakh. No dealer gives you a car with a registration number. Still, till this point we don't mind joining them in the ride to freedom. Madhu wants to spend her birthday learning the spying business while Raghav uses her to dodge the police.

In between, Barnali cuts to show us what Madhu's husband, who works in the advertising industry and considers himself an expert on “what women want”, is up to.

But what could have been a jolly good ride exploring relationships in a busy world turns out to be tedious and tentative. Even if we ignore the lapses, the story doesn't go anywhere once Madhu and Raghav start following a “target”. Shefali tries hard to tone down her “intelligent” image yet you can't believe that Madhu can't see through Raghav's shallow design.

The good thing is Shefali keeps the housewife sensibilities in her behaviour intact even when she gets a glamorous makeover. There is no jerk apart from the fact that she joins a strange man on an unknown journey, which is a scriptural flaw.

Rahul Bose has taken such rides with interesting women before. RememberMr. & Mrs. IyerandChameli? In these, the formula is you get to know something new at every step. It could be about the character or his or her life. Here there is very little that Barnali has to add once we get to know the backgrounds of her protagonists in the opening montage.

Yes, there are interesting lines here and there like the one where Madhu's husband compares her to the lizard which believes that she is holding the roof. Or the one where their “target” asks, “Is there something like a good husband?”

Without a proper character graph, the usually polished Rahul seems confused how to play a silent, brooding gangster who has little sophistication. When he says “everybody wants to be heard, nobody wants to listen”, he is perhaps putting across his condition.

The screenplay comes to a standstill when the two check into a resort. A virulent chemistry between Shefali and Rahul could have saved the day but the two fail to strike a chord. The whole film rests on the premise what if they come little too close to each other, but the three (Barnali included) hardly give us an impression that the two could proceed towards a dangerous liaison. That's why the climax looks contrived. It tasteskucch half-baked jaisa!

KUNG FU PANDA 2

(BIG Odeon, Delhi, and other theatres)

An overweight Panda with an American accent saving China from the clutches of an evil peacock with a British accent! No, don't let those antennae to work overtime.

You are not watching some great game in animation; this is Po, on his new adventure.

This time the kung fu master, who acquired the title of the dragon warrior by the end of first instalment, wants to know about his past, his parents, his identity as he takes on the evil peacock Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) who not only wants to take over China but also planning to put an end to ancient art of kung fu through a special weapon that he has acquired. Po is looking for inner peace but he can't attain it without confronting it. He doesn't know that Lord Shen is behind his wretched past, and when he does he finds himself ill-equipped to deal with the magnitude of Shen's power.

A little dark for animation but director Jennifer Yuh handles it with measured panache and pathos. A rare combination of innocence and intelligence, Po, intuitively voiced by Jack Black, packs a punch. The jokes on his size and laziness retain their freshness largely because of Black's timing. If young Po's scenes with his adoptive father stir your soul, his untamed action with his furious five bring you to the edge. The way he dodges the canon balls fired by Shen is sheer awesomeness!

The visual scheme is richly textured and the voice-overs (Angelina Jolie returns as Tigress and Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu) add to the value. For once 3D is not a hindrance and accentuates the appeal. At times the technique overpowers the emotional core of the subject but you have to live with some froth that comes with summer blockbusters.

A winner all the way!

The Hangover Part: II

(Wave, Noida, and other theatres)

We often criticise lack of originality in our films. If the current summer fare is any indication, Hollywood is also unabashedly busy rehashing successful formulae. Last week it wasPirates of the Caribbean, this week it isThe Hangover. Director Tod Phillips seems to have forgotten that the USP of the original was unexpected and fresh, something nobody did ever before.

A whacky take on male bonding, it had three men waking up after a raunchy night in Vegas only to find they are saddled with a baby, a tiger and a missing member: the groom in the pack. The best part was that they had no clue what they did. We joyfully joined them in their journey to put the missing pieces together and by the end we did want more of it but that didn't mean taking the same route all over again just after two years.

Here now the layout remains unchanged, only the setting has shifted from Las Vegas to Bangkok. It also starts with preparations for a marriage and ends up with the ceremony taking place. This time Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married. He gathers his best buddies Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) along with Doug's brother-in-law, the reluctantly invited Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Teddy (Mason Lee), Stu's teenaged to-be brother-in-law to travel to Thailand for the wedding.

After a stormy dinner where his to-be-father-in-law runs Stu down, the friends decide to have a drink by the sea. As expected, it leads to a night of mayhem and next morning they are all at sea.

This time the broken tooth is replaced by a tattoo, the tiger gives way to a monkey and instead of the groom, this time the brother-in-law goes missing.

Phillips keeps on hammering the point that you are in familiar territory. Even some of the scenes are relived, like the one in the lift, lest you forget that you are watching Part II of your favourite film.

As the boys follow one false lead after another to discover what they did last night, the wolf pack comes across some weird characters and places. The stripper's club segment is blatantly repeated for crude jokes and gross images. It confirms Stu's soft corner for hookers of all types and provides Phillips some raunchy pictures for the credits.

The humour has not all dried up but all through it gives an impression that you are revisiting a poor imitation of a well-made film.

Even the usually reliable Zach loses his spontaneity after a few kicks and Mike Tyson's short presence lacks punch.

This hangover is not worth it!

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