There’s good news and bad news for anyone who’s having trouble trying to make up their mind whether to watch Housefull 3. The good news is that despite sticking to the core values of the previous films in the series – meaning it’s offensive, frequently racist, and flat out harebrained – it’s never a soul-crushing experience in the way that some Akshay Kumar starrers can be (yes, Rowdy Rathore, I’m looking at you). Meanwhile the bad news is that the film feels tempered – as if deliberately holding back its punches – which is just as frustrating, given that moderation has seldom served comedies well. As a result we’re left with a film that’s entirely puerile, only sporadically funny, but not even so bad that it rattles you. It’s a plain and simple bore.

Writer-director duo Farhad-Sajid (the men behind that other spectacularly awful Akshay Kumar comedy Entertainment) take over the reins of the Housefull franchise from Habitual Purveyor of Bad Taste Sajid Khan, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell their styles apart. Things come in threes in the new film, which features a trio of leading men, as many heroines, and even a villain with three sons.

When London millionaire Batuk Patel (Boman Irani) convinces his daughters Ganga (Jacqueline Fernandes), Jamuna (Lisa Haydon), and Saraswati (Nargis Fakhri) that bad luck and death comes calling each time a woman in the family gets married, the young ladies conspire with their respective boyfriends to overcome this obstacle. For reasons too idiotic and convoluted to go into, Sandy (Akshay Kumar) pretends he’s crippled waist down, Teddy (Ritesh Deshmukh) plays blind, and Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) acts as if he cannot speak.

Farhad-Sajid, who’ve also written both the previous Housefull films, have an abiding love for puns, and can’t resist the urge to shove them down our throats throughout the film. Batuk’s lines are peppered with choice gems like: “Aadmi ko hamesha khush hona chahiye, gambhir toh Gautam bhi hai.” His daughters appear to suffer from a similar condition. All of them tend to translate English expressions into Hindi when they speak. Like: “Woh meri seb ki aankhen hai”, which means, “He’s the apple of my eye.” Or try this: “Hum bachche nahin bana rahe”, by which they mean, “We’re not kidding.”

The punning becomes repetitive pretty soon, the disability jokes are strictly hit and miss, and inevitably the filmmakers’ next targets are the black maidservants working at Batuk’s home. It’s up to Akshay Kumar to breathe some life into this lazy film…which he does. His character Sandy suffers from a split personality disorder, becoming the violent Sundi each time sometime utters the word ‘Indian’. In one of the film’s only genuinely clever jokes, we see Akshay assaulting himself when Sundi is in conflict with Sandy. It’s a terrific gag, but like everything else in this film it’s repeated many times over and eventually becomes tiring.

By the time Jackie Shroff shows up, a little before intermission, playing a former underworld don who has a connection with Batuk and the girls, Housefull 3 has slipped into autopilot mode. Very little is funny hereon, aside from a few in-jokes including one involving Aishwarya Rai’s wax statue. Oh, and there’s also Chunky Pandey, who returns as franchise regular Aakhri Pasta, but mercifully he only turns up in a few scenes.

At the end of 2 hours and 14 minutes when the lights came back on, I figured Housefull 3 was tiring but not infuriating like other similar comedies, including the previous instalments in the same franchise. If that’s good enough for you to invest precious time and money, then hey, who am I to stop you? I’m going with two out of five.

You know what I’d pay to watch? The adventures of Sandy and Sundi in a smart comedy. Come on, someone make that movie!

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