IT'S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE, affable but confused

The humour is sporadic, and frequently uninspired, the romance is not especially heart-warming.

rating: 2

Gurinder Chadha, writer/director of the acclaimed comedy 'Bend It Like Beckham', is back with another affable cultural comedy. This time the concept around which the story revolves is a mother who, in her desperation to marry off her daughter, kills off those who ruin her plans. Rather than centring on the spooky excesses of this doting mother, however, the film is taken down Chadha's favourite soppy-family route as the ghosts of the deceased come back to haunt her, but end up deciding to help in her tasks in order to redeem their souls. The concept isn't a bad one. There's plenty of scope for excess as the ghouls trail Mrs. Sethi, pursued by bumbling detectives, and her daughter Roopi as she searches for love. The silliness is enhanced by Roopi's friend Linda, whose obsession with Indian culture has led her to believe she has psychic powers, a useful skill that is drawn on for several of the more humorous plot twists. The trouble with the film is that is just isn't consistent enough. The humour is sporadic, and frequently uninspired, the romance is not especially heart-warming, and the redemption story that lies behind the ghosts is only loosely woven into the whole narrative. None of this is helped by the quality of the acting in the film. Shabana Azmi puts in a great turn as tortured mother Mrs. Sethi, and Goldy Notay is likable enough as Roopi, but her love interest/bumbling detective D.S. Murthy is ridiculously out of place. Placed by Sendhil Ramamurthy, the character appears to be chiselled from the finest Mahogany, he is a visual treat for the ladies but with all of the charisma of his arboreal likeness. Similarly, all of the ghosts are absolutely dire, they bring no visual comedy and they are made-up with all the style and visual flair of a ten-year-old at Halloween. There are some genuinely funny moments in the film though. I won't ruin them by giving any details, but there are some good film references, some surprisingly surreal stunts and the odd amusing twist. Certainly enough to make the film somewhat redeemable from its narrative digressions and poor acting, but there doesn't seem to be enough energy there to maintain the zanier side of the humour (by far and away the best element here) for the duration. The result is a film that is affable enough, but which drags on for far too long. Sadly, I have to admit that I found myself laughing more at badly composed scenes, lame make-up, and poor performances than at the humour that's built into this confused and unnecessarily sentimental concept comedy. 'It's A Wonderful Afterlife' is on release in the U.K.
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Michael J Edwards hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.