I am Singh Movie Review
Like this movie, I am at a loss when trying to come up with a clever point.
So this weekend has been one of the worst for new movies. I guess all the studios simultaneously decided this was the weekend to not really bother. Honestly, a mistake in my opinion. None of the recent movies have what I perceive as real theater staying power, and a good release this weekend would have probably dominated. I suppose Breaking Dawn might still be pulling in idiots, but that’s about it.
So, when the mainstream field is left fallow, that is my opportunity to visit my old friend, foreign and independent films. Honestly, I like a lot of the more “indy” films, but you are really rolling the dice, especially when presented with any Bollywood films. They rarely just produce a moderately good entertaining film. Either you get something brilliant, or you get a script generated by the “million monkeys on a million typewriters” school of story telling.
However, the last Bollywood film I saw was Robot, so I figured “How bad could I am Singh really be?
Unfortunately, about 20 minutes into the film I was praying for an attack by a giant snake made up of hundreds of identical robots. This movie presents me with a conundrum, however. On the one hand, it’s like the writers hacked into my brain, downloaded my personal list of boneheaded movie moves that really bug the hell out of me, and used that as the script. Bad voice over monologues that don’t contribute, 4th wall breaking monologues that also don’t explain things, beating an already beaten dead horse into the ground, trying to make me feel guilty for stuff I had nothing to do with and directly oppose, wooden acting from the English speaking actors, stereotypes ground so far into the earth that they resurfaced just outside Beijing, really bad grammar in the foreign language to English subtitles, really bad grammar in the English to English subtitles (yes, they did that), casting that blatantly points out the director’s obvious fetish for a particular type of woman (basically, blondes who look like Sharon Stone. There were seven different white women I counted who looked so much alike I wasn’t sure if they weren’t all played by the same woman with different hair, including two lawyers, a doctor, a stripper, and a cop), choreographed song and dance numbers with surreal lyrics dutifully subtitled, pointless flash-somethings (I can’t call them flash backs or flash forwards. More like a flash sideways, to people and events that had nothing to do with the story), a courtroom drama that seems to indicate that the writers have no idea how American courts work (or, for that matter, have ever seen another courtroom drama on TV or movies), sluggish story with long, fairly pointless speeches that rhymed remarkable with “tating the sobvious”, forcing me to watch the Twin Towers fall down again, using 9-11 to sell a story, and casting British actors who can’t really bury their accents deep enough to play Americans. On the other hand, when I could put all that behind me and treat this movie as an insight into Indian and Sikh culture, as well as a look at how India might perceive America, it actually got kind of interesting. It’s like a big cake made out of mixed bark and soap chips covered with a delicious frosting.
Anyway, the movie. I think I can sum it up by saying “Don’t discriminated against all Muslims and Sikhs because they wear turbans like the terrorists responsible for 9-11”. The story starts off with an guy living a pretty cushy life in India when he is woken up by a call from his mother telling him his brother is dead and his father is in the hospital. He flies to LA and discovers they have all been the victims of a brutal hate crime by Neo Nazis so cartoonish and over the top I thought they might be CGI generated. He embarks on a quest to find his brother’s killer and also locate his other brother, who is missing. He runs into immediate, pointless resistance from the Pasadena police force in the form of another cartoonish racist cop and finds that his brother was arrested, suspected of killing his brother in spite of witnesses to the contrary. He runs into some of his bother’s friends, who tell him about a rash of hate crimes perpetrated against anyone Muslim or wearing a turban.
I’m going to do an aside here and talk a little about the months immediately following 9-11. There were a number of hate crimes perpetrated, but in all cases that I know of the local police and FBI were relatively quick to investigate and intervene. Maybe it’s because I live in California and never really saw anything grievous here, but since this story is set in California I think it OK to have an issue with this. In no cases do I know of the local police aiding and abetting the criminals.
Anyway, misinterpreted American culture hijinks ensues. The racists surface occasionally only to prove how cowardly they are. We get subjected to the same speech over and over again. The Sikhs and Muslims remain true to the non violent tenants of their beliefs. A number of sub plots that are really all just rehashing of the main plot surface. A few cool messages about he importance of friendship and family, justice, and racial and religious tolerance are forced down our throats, pumped out, and the forced down again ad nauseum.
The stars. I’ll usually give a star for a foreign or independent film, so one star. Those good messages I talked about, while rubbed into our faces for a monstrous 150 minutes, were actually delivered. One star. A somewhat good insight into Indian and Sikh culture. One star. An idea of how India and perhaps some of the rest of the world perceives America was handed out. One star. I kind of liked the Sikh cop character, even if he was as over the top as the rest of them. One star. I always enjoy seeing white people portrayed as the bad guy. One star. Total: six stars.
The black holes. I am going to try to be kind in these, as I understand a lot of them could be the result of different cultural perspectives, but I have to be honest. Driving a painfully obvious point home, parking it’s car, and making it dinner. One black hole. American stereotypes so painfully obvious it literally hurt my brain. One black hole. The directors obvious blonde fetish. One black hole. The opening and closing monologues made me wish someone would fly a plane into the theater I was in. One black hole. Long, boring, repetitive speeches that just kept on repeating the main theme. One black hole. The film maker failed to hire a single native English speaker to view the movie once to make sure the sub titles weren’t developmentally disadvantaged. One black hole. The American acting and dialog looked and felt like they were also speaking a foreign language (the fact that they subtitled the English into poorer grammar English contributed to this). One black hole. All the weird flash somethings. I’m sure they would be far more significant and less black hole worthy if I were actually Indian, but I spent most of them asking “What the f…?”. One black hole. Three different song and dance numbers. One black hole. Use of odd camera angles that at first looked kind of brilliant but by the end of the film made my eyes cross. One black hole. A complete lack of research into how the American criminal justice system works. One black hole. Using 9-11 to sell the story and forcing me to watch the towers collapse again (I watched it live on the news, and really try not to think about it. That day still haunts me). One black hole. Overall lacking more than the most obvious point. One black hole. Total: thirteen black holes.
So a total of seven black holes. Slumdog Millionaire it is not. I don’t really see a reason to watch this in a theater. Honestly, I don’t really see a reason to see it at home, unless you are really into Bollywood and Indian culture. This could be something to throw on the TV while folding your laundry or whatever. Unfortunately the subtitles require you to stay focused on the screen. I don’t really have a read how this would work as a date film. Might be OK if your date is more hippy dippy and appreciates your cultural open mindedness, but if not she could be really bored with it and by extension you. Take her to see Hugo IMO (Hugo Automaton image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category).
That’s it for now. Not sure what I will do next. I should probably finish up my Star Trek Retrospective. I was thinking about it and am going to probably skip Insurrection, mainly because the entire movie plays like a an extended episode of TNG and, to be honest, I really can’t remember much about it one way or another. I will instead dive into Nemesis, a film I have some definite opinions on, and will finally finish up with the 2009 Star Trek and explain why anyone who likes that movie the best out of all the Star Trek franchise is either not a true fan or is a true idiot, or both.
Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Talk to you soon.