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House Full: Slapstick, Bollywood-Style
Bollywood has been going through a phase of international resurgence lately. House Full (an unintended pun on the name of the American sitcom Full House) is a comedy that targets expat Indians living in Western countries longing for home-grown laughter. This light comedy embodies the worst mechanics of Indian cinema: it’s convoluted, exaggerated and fails to make any genuine human connection.
Akshay Kumar made a name for himself in his homeland by starring in action flicks over the last two decades. As with many aging action heroes, he has made a pre-emptive shift to broad comedy with some acclaimed results. However, House Full is his silliest film to date.
Things start out promising with an intriguing premise: Arush (Kumar) is cursed with such bad luck, that the only job that he can manage to hold onto is as a cooler at a casino. He’s such an unrelenting force of negative energy that just by walking near a table, he causes all players to lose. Arush believes that his streak of bad luck will be broken when he finds his one true love and ultimately marries her. Not the most original idea out there.
What happens next is a series of zany mishaps and sidetracking, supposedly designed to test your attention span. Arush does end up getting married, within the first twenty minutes of the film– too early considering the film’s epic 150-minute running time. But with that problem resolved, the film presents another: his wife leaves him. And then another problem: he meets a hot girl who dates him under the impression than his wife has died. But wait, here come the predicament: the new girl has a strict brother who brutally investigates suspected terrorists.
That’s just scratching the surface. There are enough instances of mistaken identity and verbal misunderstanding here to make you question the validity of spoken communication.
Interestingly, House Full shows the similarities between the Indian and the Middle Eastern cultures. Social values are practically the same, especially when it comes to marriage. Also, the film’s humour resembles something we’d see in an Egyptian film. It’s even executed with the same let’s-set-aside-the-plot-for-a-minute manner. However, the Bollywood affinity for song-and-dance numbers maintains a cultural divide, and there are enough of these flirtatious cues to make you lose sight of an already complicated plot.
It’s baffling that this film got released in Egypt, as that would denote some kind of universal appeal, one that made My Name is Khan a moderate success– but there is none of that here. House Full plays strictly on the ethnic appeal; and half of the jokes get lost in translation anyway.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.