Never mind the incessant SRK promos, Bhoothnath belongs to Amitabh Bachchan and Aman Siddiqui, the precocious kid you keep seeing in the other promos. Granted, there's not enough buzz with just them, but it would be a mistake to walk into the cinemas with SRK on your expectation list. He is hardly there, and, as it turns out, completely unnecessary.
Bachchan and Siddiqui have strong enough presence and, surprisingly enough in case of the kid, acting chops in spades to carry the film through. Bachchan's Jim Carey-esque performance may not be his best work but is tonally spot-on with the rest of the film, over exaggerating each expression to get the maximum comedy mileage. Siddiqui's presence is surprisingly solid and dependable, and while he may not be a super kid, he is everyday ordinary enough to be relatable.
Vivek Sharma's use of the charisma of the funny old man and the spunky young kid are, while not original, definitely solid enough to get this kid's film off ground with a certain sense of affability and likeability. It's not breaking new ground, and not mind-blowingly funny, but it's decent fun, and half way entertaining, too. Despite a nonexistent plot and barely there chills, the film chugs along merrily for the most part.
It all begins when Papa Sharma (Shahrukh Khan) and Mama Sharma (Juhi Chawla) buy a mansion in Goa, bringing along their percipient boy Banku (Aman Siddiqui). While Papa goes off working on a cruise ship, Mama has her hands full dealing with Banku - mama's boy one moment, mad devil the next. Everyone tells the Sharmas that the mansion is haunted, though they are reluctant to believe it all.
Enter Bhoothnath aka Kailash Nath (Amitabh Bachchan), the ghost haunting the place and verily trying his best to scare Banku. In a cringe-worthy moment, Banku explains to the wizened old ghost that he only believes in angels, and the two strike a chord. The rest of the cast by now is ready to be a part of the sophomore prank-laden tumble that the two leading men take us through.
Herein lies the problem - Vivek Sharma is content making this a by-the-numbers kiddy flick, pouring in the sight gags one after the other, with little to hold them together save the two dudes. Gags are stolen or inspired from various kid-friendly comedies from Hollywood, and the plot comes to a grinding halt while both the dudes make merry.
Like I said, it's mindless fun enough, but has no substance in which to sink its teeth into. This takes us to the second, and by far the biggest problem with the film - the melodrama. A Chopra film not directed by a Chopra doesn't mean it stays away from the heavy-handed moral twists and the wailing melodrama wrapped in silk. In order to add the much-needed meat to the film, Sharma piles up the glycerin and gives us a half-hour of angry gesticulating and maudlin moments between Kailash Nath (when he was alive) and his neglectful son (Priyanshu Chatterjee).
Not only does the tacked-on part come through as the bits with which to pacify the adults, it also smacks of ignorance about what makes a kids' film work for adults. The effusively and insincerely emotional last act is a criminal waste of footage and our time, and serves no purpose other than to make an okay film bad. It is strong enough to leave a strong after-taste, yet no good enough to actually mean something.
The forced and fake melodrama, coupled with the rest of the cast's hammy presence, brings the whole film down like a pack of cards. Really, everyone else is just in to make a quick buck. Rajpal Yadav and Satish Shah I can understand, being given nothing that they haven't done before, but everyone else just delivers what the script demands and backs off.
I wish the cast had that extra joie de vivre that Banku and Bhoothnath share, or that Vivek Sharma had more sense than to make a kids' film with a Chopra film mixed in, or that he had a single original thought anytime during the making of the film. But if wishes were ponies, I'd have a ranch. If your child forces you, go in, and walk out when the flashbacks begin. If he doesn't bother, neither should you.