Friday, February 10, 2012

Delhi Belly

2011, 103 min. Not Rated
IMDB says… Three struggling room-mates unknowingly become potential prey of a ruthless gangster.

The 73rd Virgin says... Many Netflix commenters compare this to The Hangover. Fair enough – haven’t seen that. This is pretty funny in the first half, but as so often happens, it loses steam and becomes slow and predictable. There is no nudity, one bit of implied oral pleasuring, and just flat-out non-stop profanity from every character in every situation. It would be forced and off-putting in most American movies, like it was in Pineapple Express, but to uninitiated Western ears it is made momentarily funnier by the profanity being delivered in those crisp, precise Indian accents. The subtitles are mostly unnecessary since the dialog is 80% English spoken more clearly than we’re used to hearing.

We open with a chipper Indian flight attendant, Soniya, receiving a package of unknown contents from a sweaty tourist just off a plane and firm instructions on delivering it quickly. She goes to find her slacker journalist fiancé and two roommates in their pig sty apartment while the credits role and what sounds like Indian emo drones in the background.

She clearly hasn’t gotten the memo about the seriousness of delivering this package and breezily hands it to her fiancé, Tashi, to deliver on his way to a fashion mag reporting assignment.

In the funniest sequence Tashi and his photographer, Nitin, meet another correspondent, Menaka, and the three of them interview this week’s diva sensation, who is bursting with song ideas. All the actors are at least funny, and Poorna Jagannathan is very appealing as the sardonic, westernized Menaka.

The third roommate Arup is a sweatshop graphic artist with a hang-up on an 80s disco kung fu character named Disco Fighter. They also have a landlord problem which provides a back story involving prostitution and blackmail.

We get to see the package slip further down everyone’s priority list as Tashi dumps it on Nitin who sticks it in his motorcycle basket and forgets about it. The next day Nitin buys chicken from a street vendor who has been scratching his privates and Nitin soon develops “Delhi Belly” with all the delightful sound effects, all the quandaries about how to sanitize the crevasse with no running water - but with the tempting presence of a roommates orange juice in the fridge as a backup, etc. You get the picture.

At some point Nitin needs his stool sample dropped off at the doctor and asks Arup to deliver both packages to their respective destinations with predictable results.

So far, so good but from here on out it slows down and loses focus with too many stories to follow and sudden elements of slapstick and several broad recycled plot devices. It is saved somewhat by Arup’s fantasy sequence interruption of his girlfriend’s wedding to a Canadian software engineer, complete with fire-spitting sitars, and a funny sequence involving a cow in the road, but the plot gets slower and broader.

By the end, a roomful of dead people and Nitin’s last trip to the toilet are the last gasp of comedy before the obligatory, but in this case satirical, dance sequence - which is kind of cute and resurrects the awful song from the interview.

This has an average rating of 7.6 out of 10 on IMDB which is awfully high. Maybe "the problem does not lie with my set" and I'm just too old to understand comedy for kids these days, but it’s amazing how quickly this goes from fresh to dull. Maybe I’m too ready to be wowed at the beginning of each comedy and somehow overlook the weaknesses until they pile up later, but this just keeps happening to me. I guess only I can make it stop.

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