'Entertainment': Film Review

Those with a taste for broad Bollywood antics could do worse 

Lovable golden retriever Junior the Wonder Dog makes his big-screen debut in this zany comedy

The poster incites dread — what good could possibly come from the pairing of Akshay Kumar and a golden retriever? — but Entertainment is no dog. The film faces strong competition from Salman Khan's actioner Kick, which is still making an impact at the box office two weeks after its release, but box-office success seems like a possibility.

Entertainment is saved by engaging performances by action-comedy superstar Kumar, spirited new find Tamannaah Bhatia, comedian Johnny Lever and blustering Prakash Raj. Debutant Junior the Wonder Dog doesn't have much to do except stare at the camera and drool, but I've seen worse debuts.

Akhil Lokande (Kumar) is a struggling urbanite with a heart of gold and a fetching girlfriend, Saakshi (Bhatia). The two would love to get married, but her father (Mithun Chakraborty) refuses to let his daughter marry a pauper, and extracts a promise from Akhil to make a million dollars before he can have her hand. When Akhil learns that he's the illegitimate son of a recently deceased diamond merchant in Bangkok (Dalip Tahil), he rushes to Thailand to claim his father's millions — only to find that his father has left the money to a dog named Entertainment, the only individual in the world who really loved him. Akhil and Saakshi must battle a couple of boneheaded second cousins (Raj, Sonu Sood) who think they're entitled to the money as well.

This is a wordy comedy, studded with cinema in-jokes in Hindi. Most of its funniest lines have been deliberately simplified in the English subtitles for non-Indian audiences who wouldn't get the references, but one wishes the filmmakers had given viewers a chance to try anyway — these days, given the popularity of the films overseas, viewers might have understood the jibes about Sunny Leone or Sholay.

The performances are surprisingly restrained (by Indian comedy standards), especially Lever's; known for over-the-top antics that often alienate more than entertain, he comes across here as compassionate and sympathetic in the role of a lawyer tasked with protecting Entertainment's wealth.

There will always be jarring elements in a broad comedy like this — in Entertainment's case we see gratuitous use of subsidized Thailand locations, some of which are downright nonsensical (one scene takes place in a snowy winter resort "two hours from Bangkok.")

The film could have been improved by losing at least a third of its length and any and all of its threadbare VFX (including one scene of an animated talking dog in a black leather jacket). But the songs, by Sachin-Jigar, are brisk and trendy.

India's top animal welfare activist, Cabinet Minister Maneka Gandhi, has come out in support of Entertainment for its sensitive handling of the dogs used in the film, and a thoughtful disclaimer at the beginning that reads "Don't shop, adopt" is welcome.

Established screenwriters and brothers Farhad and Sajid Samji make their directing debut here, and the one-liners largely deliver laughs. Special attention must go to editor Steven H. Bernard, who has shown a flair for the tricky art of editing comedy on Indian hit films like Chennai Express and Bol Bachchan.

Production company: Tips Films
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Tamannaah Bhatia, Johnny Lever, Prakash Raj, Sonu Sood, Dalip Tahil, Junior the Wonder Dog
Directors: Farhad Bhivandiwala, Sajid Bhivandiwala
Screenwriters: Farhad Samji, Sajid Samji, K. Subhash
Producers: Ramesh Taurani, Jayantilal Gada
Executive producer: Varsha Taurani
Director of photography: Manoj Soni
Production designer: Vinod Guruji
Costume designers: Ayesha Dasgupta, Jaya Taurani
Choreographer: Remo D'Souza
Music: Sachin Sanghvi, Jigar Saraiya
Editor: Steven H. Bernard

No rating, 140 minutes