Singh Is Bling *
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson, Lara Dutta, Kay Kay Menon, Rati Agnihotri
The good news first (and I’m grasping at straws). Akshay Kumar retains a goofy sort of charm through much of the movie, Amy Jackson is gorgeous, and it is nice to see Lara Dutta again. But the rest of it? O dear! There’s hardly a plot (even less than the usual in movies such as these). For what it is worth it tells a tale of a foreign-returned, non-Hindi speaking desi girl (Jackson) returning to India where she meets a good-hearted but somewhat dim-witted sardar (Kumar) and he helps her out of a bind. But the so-called plot is basically just an excuse for stringing together a bunch of comic skits with a gossamer thin thread. The comedy is of the slapstick variety – emphasis on the slap – and hardly any of it is amusing and much of it is prurient, tasteless and misogynistic. Director Prabhudeva himself shows up in a cameo where he and a young boy wee-wee on our guileless hero. Hahahaha! Not!
Performance-wise, Akshay is Akshay. Brit Amy Jackson certainly has the looks and she handles the action scenes reasonably well but her emoting (and dancing) skills leave much room for improvement (in fact, she appears to have taken a step back in these departments from her last outing – the Tamil film, I). Lara Dutta makes a welcome return to the screen and tries to put her proven comedic skills to use as an interpreter for Jackson’s character but she has awful material to work with (it’s a cruel world in which an actress with the former Ms. Universe’s looks and talent hasn’t had a better career but that may also be reflective of her career and life choices).Kay Kay Menon attempts to inject some life into his villainous turn but is also defeated by the dreadful script. Even the songs are utterly forgettable.
Apropos of nothing but interesting to note that leading man Akshay Kumar is twenty-five years older than his leading lady (Jackson) but only six years younger than his on-screen mother, yesteryear heroine, Rati Agnihotri. Such are the ways of Mollywood.
Cut to chase: Singh is cringe.
Dir: John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Starring: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins,
Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo
The original Vacation (or to be precise, National Lampoon’s Vacation) starred Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the hapless Griswolds who embark on a vacation from hell with their unenthusiastic children, Rusty and Audrey, in tow. The new Vacation has the now grown Rusty (Ed Helms) deciding to take his own family – wife and two sons – on a similar road trip to the amusement park Wally World, obviously recalling his childhood vacation through rose-tinted glasses. Rusty hopes the trip will become a bonding experience for his family but he ends up with more than he bargained for.
Not all the jokes work but there are enough laughs to go around to keep one entertained. Some of the gems include the early bit about social media etiquette involving Rusty’s wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate, absolutely terrific) and her friend (Regina Hall), the family transport – an Albanian Prancer – which is a source of constant amusement, the side-trip to Debbie’s old college, the overnight stop at Rusty’s sister Audrey’s (Leslie Mann) house where we meet the preening brother-in-law (a hilarious Chris Hemsworth) and his – ahem – oversized “equipment”, a riff-off Christie Brinkley’s Ferrari girl from the original, and a cringe-worthy (in a funny way) scene where Rusty tries to play wing-man to his elder, teen-aged son.
There’s also meta-textual commentary in a scene where Rusty’s son says: “I’ve never even heard of the original vacation” to which Rusty replies, “Doesn’t matter,the new vacation will stand on its own.” And, yes, the original Griswolds are also on hand in a cameo.
Cut to chase: This update doesn’t let you down.