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  It's a Wonderful Afterlife When's The Big Day?
Year: 2010
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Stars: Shabana Azmi, Goldy Notay, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Sally Hawkins, Zoë Wanamaker, Sanjeev Baskar, Mark Addy, Jimi Mistry, Ray Panthaki, Jack Gordon, Shaheen Khan, Jamie Sives, Lalita Ahmed, Don Warrington, Steve Jones, Adlyn Ross, Ash Varrez, Ace Bhatti
Genre: Comedy, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a serial killer loose in this area of suburban London, and their latest victim has been force-fed hot, spicy curry until it not only poisoned him, but made his stomach explode on the operating table, showering the doctors with the contents. Surely this dastardly criminal must be a complete psychopath, a raving, bloodthirsty lunatic? Or how about Mrs Sethi (Shabana Azmi), a meek Indian widow who is annoyed whenever anyone turns down her daughter Roopi (Goldy Notay) for marriage on account of her larger frame?

If that sounds like a strange premise for a horror movie, then it was, but It's a Wonderful Afterlife wasn't really much of a chiller, more of a spoof. Only it wasn't really that either, as there may have been bits and pieces sending up various (well, three) horror classics, mostly this was an excuse for making fun of familial pressures and bonds within the Indian community, which did not make the most obvious fit with the serial killer plot, so much so that any violence Mrs Sethi perpetrated was kept largely offscreen, unwilling to confront the nastiness of getting her hands dirty with the blood of her victims.

Fair enough, Kind Hearts and Coronets did the same, but this was no Kind Hearts and Coronets, and the results were about as controlled as the exploding belly of Sanjeev Baskar we witnessed at the beginning of the movie. What happens is that in true American Werewolf in London style Mrs Sethi is trailing around the ghosts of her victims, who all insulted her daughter and therefore in her mind deserved to die; quite how the story justifies this extreme overreaction is swept under the carpet throughout, it's simply one of the jokes and an excuse for more Indian mother wants her offspring to get married humour, which doesn't so much leave a moral vacuum as it carries a very odd target for laughter.

That's assuming you were laughing at all, and not many were as It's a Wonderful Afterlife was accused of being the worst British film of its year in some quarters. It really wasn't that bad, and director Gurinder Chadha's typically goodnatured take on her characters soothed what could easily have been a bad taste fest, but on the other hand the lurches in the plot signalled a film whose setpieces had been thought up before there was a decent narrative to carry them. It looked too much like a script very much in need of a polish to iron out the glaring examples of a filmmaker out of control, not to mention that the gags should really be much funnier if black comedy was the intention.

Once it is established that Mrs Sethi is determined to see her daughter married before she joins her own husband in the, er, afterlife, the focus moves to Roopi, who has all but given up hope that she'll find Mr Right, although who should re-enter her life but Raj (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a childhood friend who has become a dashing police detective. Trouble is, he's on the serial killer case and his boss (Mark Addy) thinks it's Roopi who's the chief suspect, so his getting reacquainted with her is as much a ruse for work as it is a genuine interest in the woman. As you can see, none of this is remotely convincing, but operates as a wish-fulfilment romantic comedy, not that you would begrudge anyone that, except the suspension of disbelief is not that these two would ever get together, but that these outlandish circumstances would ever occur. When you get Sally Hawkins as Roopi's psychic best friend re-enacting the prom from Carrie for no good reason, you know you have a film that's ambitious, but all over the place. Music by Craig Pruess.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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