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It's A Wonderful Afterlife -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- The "Bend It Like Beckham" crew goes supernatural in "It's a Wonderful Afterlife," a feel-good flick about a serial killer who just wants what's best for her daughter. Broad and not too spicy, the London-set Indian rom-com is a crowd-pleaser with fair moneymaking potential.

London's Indian-immigrant Southall area is suffering a plague of bizarre food-related slayings. Using comic gore, the movie shows the latest: a man is forced to eat so much curry his stomach explodes. Being the only cop on the force of Indian heritage, Detective Murthy is assigned to the case -- not realizing that his "Aunty" is the killer, having slain neighbors who deem her daughter Roopie too fat and unattractive for marriage.

Aunty Sethi has more than a handsome young detective and an unengaged daughter to worry about: Her victims have returned as blue-makeup-wearing ghosts so disturbed by their murders that they'll haunt the killer until she dies. And the only other person with any inkling of the ghosts' presence is a nutty Aussie friend of the family who fancies herself a psychic.

It's all pure silliness, from the peeling flesh and dangling guts of the poltergeist Greek chorus, who must help Mrs. Sethi find a mate for her daughter so she can die in peace, to a climactic engagement party that erupts into a "Carrie"-style mess of flying naan and projectile chutney. And there's little attempt to develop any chemistry in the inevitable relationship between the detective and Roopie, whom he is ordered to woo by superiors who think she's the killer.

But director Gurinder Chadha and her team, with their TV-sitcom color palette and quick comic pacing, clearly aren't shooting for plausibility, and audiences in search of a few easy laughs won't be disappointed -- though they might secretly wish for more interesting characters and richer local color.

Sundance Film Festival (No distributor)

Production company: Bend It Films
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Zoe Wanamaker, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Shaheen Khan, Adlyn Ross, Ash Varrez, Mark Addy, Sally Hawkins, Jimi Mistry, Ray Panthaki, Don Warrington
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Screenwriters: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges
Executive producers: Paul Mayeda Berges, Chris Curling
Producer: Gurinder Chadha
Director of photography: Richard Pope
Production designer: Nick Ellis
Music: Craig Pruess
Costume designer: Jill Taylor
Editor: Oral Norrie Ottey
Sales Agent: Hanway
No MPAA rating, 100 minutes