"Singh Is Kinng" is a zesty Bollywood hodgepodge that already has scored big on its home turf, thanks in no small part to the star power of lead player Akshay Kumar, and may attract crossover auds during an already promising North American rollout.

Careening wildly between exuberance and silliness, syrupy sentiment and spectacular song-and-dance, “Singh Is Kinng” is a zesty Bollywood hodgepodge that already has scored big on its home turf, thanks in no small part to the star power of lead player Akshay Kumar, and may attract crossover auds during an already promising North American rollout. Obviously inspired by Frank Capra’s “A Pocketful of Miracles” — the famed filmmaker’s 1961 remake of his own “Lady for a Day” (1934) — and Jackie Chan’s similarly plotted “Miracles” (1989), uneven pic is shapeless and shameless, but mostly engaging and undeniably amusing.

Kumar is winning as Happy Singh, a spirited bumbler whose best intentions usually result in property damage and minor injuries throughout his small Punjabi community. Eager to rid themselves of this well-meaning doofus, his fellow villagers send Happy — accompanied, reluctantly, by exasperated elder Rangeela (Om Puri) — to Australia on a seemingly impossible task.

Specifically, Happy is supposed to persuade Lucky (Sonu Sood), the village’s most notorious prodigal son, to give up his life as “king” of the Australian underworld and return home to his family.

Not surprisingly, things don’t go smoothly for our intrepid hero. First, Happy boards the wrong plane and winds up in Egypt –where, fortuitously, he meets and briefly flirts with Sonia (Katrina Kaif), a far-from-home Indian beauty. And when he finally does make it Down Under, Happy inadvertently causes Lucky’s temporary paralysis. It falls to Happy to take over as king of Lucky’s criminal empire.

Fortunately, this happenstance enables Happy to help a poor flower vendor (Kirron Kher) pose as a wealthy grande dame in order to impress her daughter’s snooty fiance (Ranvir Shorey). Unfortunately, the daughter turns out to be — who else? — Sonia.

Directing from a script he co-wrote with Suresh Nair, Anees Bazmee displays a blithe disregard for consistencies of tone and characterization — when he’s not a hopeless klutz, Happy is an agile martial artist — while keeping things moving at a brisk clip between lively production numbers. Colorful supporting characters — including Mika (Javed Jaffrey), Lucky’s treacherous, sight-impaired sibling — arbitrarily switch from heroism to villainy, or vice versa, whenever it suits the needs of the plot. And yet, within the context of this fairy tale-ish froth, such arrant contrivance seems entirely appropriate.

Lensed on location in Australia and Egypt, “Singh Is Kinng” is considerably more than the sum of its parts, generating a well-nigh irresistible feel-good vibe that encourages auds to laugh with, not at, the pic. In the end, reprobates are redeemed, lovers are united and, no kidding, Snoop Dogg drops by to join the cast for the closing-credits reprise of the improbably catchy title song. Cowabunga.

Singh Is Kinng

India

Production

An Indian Films release of an Adlabs presentation of a Hari Om Prods. production, in association with Blockbuster Movie Entertainers. Produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah. Executive producers, A. Shah Aashin, Bimal Oberoi. Directed by Anees Bazmee. Screenplay, Bazmee, Suresh Nair.

Crew

Camera (color), Ben Nott, Sanjay F. Gupta; editor, Amitabh Shukla; music, Pritam; production designer, Stewart Burnside; sound (Dolby), Leslie Fernandes. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Aug. 9. 2008. Running time: 138 MIN. (I: 70 MIN.; II: 68 MIN.)

With

Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Om Puri, Sonu Sood, Javed Jaffrey, Kamal Chopra, Manoj Pahwa, Neha Dhupia, Kirron Kher, Ranvir Shorey, Snoop Dogg. (Hindi, English dialogue)
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