"Mubarakan" starts with a deadly car crash. And many would argue that it ends leaving you feeling like you were in it.
Okay, maybe that's too harsh. Because I'll admit this movie is not as bad as a lot of Anees Bazmee's previous films. But hey, that's like saying getting kicked in the testicles is better than losing your right thumb. It's not a lot of fun.
But what do you expect? Arjun Kapoor stars in a double role as Karan and Charan, twin brothers, one raised in London the other in Chandigarh after becoming orphaned as babies. A series of harebrained plot twists and the involvement of their buffoonish uncle Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor) leads to the twins ending up engaged to each other's sweethearts.
It's not the most original premise, but to be fair there is some semblance of a plot, however puerile. Yet, the film is pitched too loud, chunks of it just aren't funny, and it's excruciatingly long at 2 hours and 36 minutes. Bazmee spends too much time on set up, and as a result the film's first half feels like a slog.
Despite the excessive melodrama, the film really takes flight when the spotlight is on the senior cast, which includes a feisty Ratna Pathak Shah playing the aunt that raised one of the twins, and a terrific Pavan Malhotra as the uncle who adopted the other. Their time on screen, along with a scenery-chewing Anil Kapoor, are the film's strongest bits. It's a joy to watch these three actors flex their comic chops and nail even the smallest throwaway moments. The simple act of gargling one's throat in the background while others are engaged in conversation is mined for laughs in one of the film's funnier scenes.
But the problem is that much of the humor in "Mubarakan" is low-IQ, pedestrian stuff that never feels fresh. Just how many times will Bazmee recycle the same scenes in which multiple characters coincidentally land up at a common place and end up trying to hide from each other? Even the dialogue is only occasionally clever; the punning feels labored "Jatt ko jet-lag kabse hone laga?"
The film's leading ladies range from spunky (Ileana D'cruz) to merely ornamental (Athiya Shetty), while a track involving a third (Neha Sharma) is underdeveloped and frankly offensive. Arjun Kapoor's distinct physicality and limited range of expressions make it hard to buy into the double role conceit, although he gamely works towards creating fully realized characters out of slick Karan and mild-mannered Charan. He tries, but he needed to try harder.
In the end the film is the same old comedy of errors that we've seen so many times before. Anil Kapoor is the secret sauce of "Mubarakan" whose incredible timing uplifts many a dull patch. But the film is unmistakably indulgent and over-long, and could've done with some serious pruning. Right now it works only in fits and starts. You'll laugh, but not throughout. Let's just say it falls somewhere in the middle on a scale of "Ready" to "No Entry".
I'm going with two out of five.