But hoo boy, sometimes the universal dumping is there for a reason. I recently saw Joker, Shirish Kunder’s appalling mess of a movie. I thought at the time that it might just be the worst film I’ve ever seen—and definitely not in a let’s-get-wasted-and-see-a-midnight-show kind of way. There’s no earthly reason for anyone to see this film, much less for anyone to have gone to the trouble of making it.
|Let us hope that he was kidding.|
Next there’s a flashback to the Independence era, when Paglapur was left off the map because it was home to a huge asylum whose inmates had suddenly escaped, and the mapmaker fled rather than enter the town full of screaming loonies. I’m worried, a bit, that “screaming loonies” may sound politically incorrect—and believe me, as a New Yorker, I have seen more than my share of mental illness. (New Yorkers wear their own small neuroses with pride, and we require massive dysfunctionality before we write people off as crazy.) But these people really are cackling and leaping and burning things. It’s like Wall Street on the verge of the financial crisis.
Naturally these stories must be tied together, because the back of the envelope on which Shirish Kunder has jotted down his script says that they must. And so Akshay Kumar returns from present-day America to his hometown of Paglapur, also in the present day, where all the loonies continue to reside 65 years later—as if mental illness were as genetically determined as the ability to wiggle one’s ears.*
|Shah Rukh shows 'em how it's done.|
And no, I don’t think I’m changing my Barfi tune here. I don’t demand an entirely original, nobody’s-ever-done-this-before screenplay. I just want to watch a real movie, not a lazily patched-together pile of shiny bits that the director hopes will look from certain angles like a story.
Akshay spends a lot of very dull screen time working to fake an alien presence in Paglapur just to keep his evil white nemesis from making him look like the kind of scientist who would, you know, fake an alien presence. The ruse, too, is played for laughs, and as if pulling one over on the American scientist is some kind of moral victory for Akshay. I’m here to tell you that it is not. It is rather a big no-no for the international scientific community. Also for filmmaking, because it's not funny, either.
You know without my telling you that real aliens will appear and vindicate Akshay, but I’m sorry, this is not a vindication. It’s just an alien blessing pasted on top of the enormous fraud that is Joker. I almost rooted for the bad white actor.
*Which, in case you were wondering, I can do.