They played it safe again. This was one of the biggest mainstream 3D animated features from Bollywood. This was the epic meeting of Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Corp., arguably two of the most influential studios from Bollywood and Hollywood respectively. This was the first such mainstream film from our desi
studios to feature star voices (no, Hum Hain Lajawaab
does not count).
And they played it as safe as they could. Roadside Romeo is by no means is the new benchmark of 3D animated features. In fact, it is a textbook example in what differentiates Pixar from the rest of the Dreamworks riff-raff. The art is gorgeous, and the animation is very solid (I don't think I quite warmed up to the pooch design, but that is personal taste). But the soul of a good film is missing.
Too eager to buckle under the pressure of getting a quick laugh, the movie never tries to rise above its plebeian script, and goes all Bollywood references on us, references being what have been the staple of the terrible animated films from the West. The script's mundane-ness is not because of a lack of talent or foresight, but the reluctance to take risk.
The jokes come hard and fast, but they are all the garden variety Bollywood jokes than something as transcendent the first half of Wall-E. This is all harmless fun, as the makers would themselves say, but the lack of drive makes our lack of interest legible and righteous.
In all fairness, the voice acting is pretty solid. Saif as Romeo is definitely the biggest surprise. He does fall in that slow rasp of trying to be ultra-hip, but the voice has character, and what's more, has all the charm intact. Jaffrey as Charlie Anna, the film's loud, mixed Tamil/Malayalam accented, bad guy is simply brilliant, and that he is the finest voice actor in the film is further proof of his versatility.
Kareena's attempt at this new form of acting doesn't carry through as well, but she is subtle in the voice mannerisms to not let the star take over. The supporting cast is as effective, and if there is one thing Jugal Hansraj does well, it is this. He directs his cast well, and all the hackneyed lines and terrible jokes are effortlessly smooth and without a trace of irony by the hands of his cast.
Hansraj's failing as a writer does not affect his direction, either. The film looks gorgeous, and the use of colors and lights to make a movie with minimalist backgrounds stands out is a solid achievement. It's a lovingly rendered film, even if not the same quality as the Disney counterparts, and I'd be remiss to not give that a shout.
If only the rest of the film stood up to its own lofty ambitions. The script is pedestrian, the writing is horrendous, and the characters devised are caricatures simply to serve as effective vehicles for yet another coterie of terrible jokes. This is the complete pro-thesis of Yash Raj's understanding of the children's psyche - if Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic
is anything to go by - they don't get children, and would much rather create a generic film than to make an attempt.