Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): *½
(Hollywood remix) Rating (out of five): **
I have now made my more-or-less annual visit to Bollywood, and once again returned with my jaw hanging down to my knees. What can one say about a project as silly, expensive and inconsequential as Kites? As much as I sometimes rail against Hollywood's blockbusters, they seem models of intelligence and restraint when set against this schlockfest. If you found, as did I, the screenplay for Avatar slightly "wanting," wait until you get a load of Kites, produced by Rakesh Roshan and directed by Anurag Basu.
Kites' biggest lunacy is that every event in the film happens simply because the characters want it to happen -- from marrying rich to winning a dance contest to falling in mad/luxuriant/forever-after love to suddenly having a sub-machine gun in your hands because you need to wipe out the bad guys. When anything/everything can happen this easily, very soon there is no logic, suspense or viewer goodwill remaining. I'll admit that I may just not "get" Bollywood, although on the plus side, compared to my last B'wood outing, Chandi Chowk to China, this movie is at least shorter.
And because Kites provides some visual enjoyment, starting with its two stars, you really have to see it to appreciate it – which results in quite the conundrum, since it’s such a difficult movie to recommend. In the male lead is one of the most handsome men currently in cinema, Hrithik Roshan, who could give the young Alain Delon competition. As a poor, grown-up orphan boy known as "J", Roshan teaches dance classes, swims, showers and de-shirts frequently, so his physique, with every muscle showing and glowing, is on display front and center. The lead actress is the Uruguayan Bárbara Mori, who made a bit of a Latina splash here in the USA a few years back via the soap-opera-ish My Brother's Wife. Mori is an eyeful and so makes a nice match for her leading man.
Once the pair connect (and we learn of their secret past history), they go dancing -- in the rain, of course, so that their clothing adheres tightly to those voluptuous bodies. Unfortunately, as they are betrothed respectively to the sister and brother of a Las Vegas casino-and-crime family (don't ask), they are then hunted down by the family and so must endure foot chases with lots of vaulting, car chases (with the expected car wrecks), more chases, one of which derives from a bank robbery (again, don't ask), smooching, a wedding in Mexico followed by more smooching, and then a little "down" time on the cliffs above the sea. Probably the wackiest moment for viewers will come during an extended-nearly-to-oblivion scene of animated shadow puppets cast upon the wall by our two protagonists. And once again, I say, don't ask.
Many far superior foreign films are barely lucky enough to find theatrical berth and minor DVD release here in the USA. Kites, however managed all that and more: a “remix” version overseen by none other than US filmmaker Brett Ratner, which opened in theaters the week after the Bollywood Kites made its debut, and which has now come to DVD, along with the original version, in a single package. The Hollywood “remix” is slightly better than the Bollywood original, if only because it is shorter--by around 40 minutes! It also offers more dialog dubbed into English and therefore, hey, less subtitles to distract viewers from those luscious faces and bodies on display. Still, there are all those amazing and numerous coincidences (like the one in which our hero finds his missing cell phone on the railroad tracks). The Hollywood version also keeps the near-constant flashback-and-forth style of the original -- which actually begins in the middle and then travels to-and-fro until we arrive in the middle again and then finally move forward.
Oh, yes and what about those kites of the title? Where do they come in? They don’t actually, except at the film’s opening – when they are given some ridiculous symbolic meaning, and then forgotten about until the finale, at which point they are dragged out again to provide unearned resonance and cheapjack sentiment. The remix DVD comes with no extras whatsoever, though I think a do-it-yourself course in shadow puppetry might have been a nice addition. Except that shadow-puppet scene was among the material Ratner deleted from his remix. Smart move, Brett!
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