To set things in perspective, Hari Puttar will surely strike a chord with kids. Right after Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Wall-E, Jetix, Shah Rukh Khan, Looney Tunes, X-box, Orkut, petrol prices, the collapse Wall Street's premier investment banks, the Hyde Act and the falling rupee value.
Hari Puttar - A Comedy of Terrors looks like someone wanted to make a movie for kids, started setting the stage for something really wacky to happen, realized the movie was almost getting to the end, and so inserted a few tricks from Home Alone to save the film's grace. So watching the film feels like opening a cutely packaged box of Cadbury's chocolates (or, to give some credit to one of the sponsors, a cute packet of Britannia Treat biscuits), only to find half the contents eaten away by worms. Not disgusting, but highly disappointing.
Not that the story had no potential. 10-year-old Hari (Zain Khan) moves to London with his family. His father is a scientist, who works at a remote location in the UK, and who has access to confidential information stored on a chip, safely stashed away at his house.
One day, a whole lot of Hari's relatives including an aunt (Lilette Dubey), an uncle (Jackie Shroff), and sundry teenagers descend upon their house. Hari is exasperated by his loving but strict mom (Sarika), his bullying brother and the irritating horde of cousins, and prays for everyone to disappear. God grants him his wish the next morning - when he and his little cousin Tuk-Tuk (Swini Khara) are accidentally left behind while his family leaves for a picnic.
While it's time for the kids to relish their freedom at home, two bad guys (played by Vijay Raaz and Saurabh Shukla) who are after the secret chip, appear on the scene. Soon, Hari realizes he wants to take back his prayers. And you realize you are yawning.
When you are ten, people can't make up their mind about whether you are a kid or an adult. That's how confused the movie is. It tries to be amusing, and doesn't seem to have much of a clue as to what kids will find comic. What on earth are expletives (beeped so an adult knows what is being said and so kids will surely get curious about them), even if in a funny setting, doing in a children's film?
Then, you are promised an adventure story, and the adventure starts after the interval, and ends in twenty minutes. And finally, for a 10-year-old, being left home alone (Home Alone has patented the experience) by the family is a blessing in disguise. In a movie, it ought to be twice as much fun. But Hari Puttar makes it boring, tiresome and even lonely.
However, the cast has done well. Zain Khan is cute and talented. Swini Khara seems to have shrunk, but she is absolutely adorable as Tuk-Tuk - and it's a relief to watch her act like a child, for a change. Sarika and Lilette Dubey look like they wanted be a part of the adventure, too, but were snubbed.
Vijay Raaz and Saurabh Shukla are given the funniest roles, which by themselves are very limited in their funniness. However, by the end of the film, I am still not clear as to how so many kids entered the picture, or why Jackie Shroff is in the film, or where Hari's dad actually is, or why Warner Bros felt so threatened by the title.
If you really want to enjoy Hari Puttarâ€¦ stay home and play with the film's official website. At least it's engaging and fun.