Singh Is Kinng

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Opens: Aug. 8 (Adlabs)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "Singh Is Kinng" is a rollicking late-night party you don't want to end - with a friendly, funny and generous host (Akshay Kumar); gorgeous women (Katrina Kaif, Neha Dhupia); pumped-up bhangra music and an extravagant, booze-soaked scuffle or two. The film has lived up to its extensive pre-release hype and shows great promise to become the year's biggest Hindi language hit.

Happy Singh (Kumar) is a likeable, but dangerously clumsy, loser whose antics cause untold grief in his small village in Punjab. The exasperated villagers decide to concoct a reason to send Happy far, far away -- in this case, Australia to retrieve Lucky Singh (Sonu Sood), another son of the village who has become one of Australia's richest and most feared crime lords.

But Happy's ebullience and sweetness have a salubrious effect on everyone he meets. Through an improbable chain of events, Happy is forced to impersonate Lucky. What he does with his newfound power not only sways Lucky's criminal gang but also attracts the attention of a beautiful young criminology student, Sonia (Kaif).

Veteran comedy director Anees Bazmee, whose two previous collaborations with Kumar have made boxoffice records, overcomes a slim plot with breakneck pacing and a relentless parade of jokes and sight gags. The film's songs are another plus, performed by hit British bhangra artists RDB and Hard Kaur, and shot in Bollywood-perfect locales that range from glitzy nightclubs to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Special praise goes to costume designer Sabina Khan, who decks out Kumar in a blinding array of paisley sport shirts, jeweled chartreuse turbans, kooky cropped trouser suits and other flashy outfits that reflect his blinged-out bumpkin character.

The muscled Kumar is a model-turned-martial arts expert known for doing his own stunts. Once relegated to brutish action roles, Kumar has developed into a comic actor of considerable charm, and deserves a wider audience here in the West. Perfectly cast as the feckless Happy, he's complemented by a rich array of supporting actors that includes art house stalwarts Om Puri and Kirron Kher.

Kumar's magnetism even upstages superstar Snoop Dogg, who shows up in a bhangra-rap tune over the closing credits decked out in gold earrings and a red silk turban, a plate of fried chicken in hand. Like I said, it's a party.

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Sonu Sood, Kirron Kher, Om Puri, Javed Jaffrey, Ranvir Shorey. Director: Anees Bazmee. Screenwriters: Anees Bazmee, Suresh Nair. Executive producer: Vipul Amrutlal Shah. Director of photography: Ben Nott. Music: Pritam, RDB. Costume designer: Sabina Khan. Production designer: Adam Head. Editors: Amitabh Shukla, Prashant Singh Rathode. No rating. 130 minutes.

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