The silly, square and charming Bollywood superhero picture “Krrish 3” measures up pretty well, provided you bear in mind that it’s more of a kids’ movie than its U.S. counterparts. Already a huge hit in India the day after it opened, the brightly colored, upbeat film is a world and a worldview away from Christopher Nolan’s anti-heroic noir psychodramas, although writer-director Rakesh Roshan happily lifts an unmistakable blaring sound effect and a key Swiss mountaintop location from “Inception.” Grownups may find their eyelids sagging, but 10-year-olds should be enthralled.
No brooding and growling for this superhero: He is named after a Hindu god (and played by the director’s son, Hrithik Roshan, who looks like one) and his best bits have him doling out pearls of wisdom to wide-eyed preteen admirers. (“Every time you use your powers to help others, you are Krrish.” Like that.)
The series began with “Koi … Mil Gaya” (2003), a sort of Hindi “E.T.,” in which a Krishna-blue stumpy alien befriended a winsome disabled boy, Rohit Mehra, and transformed him into a genius. The younger Roshan seemed to have a great time playing non-stud muffin Rohit (and romancing Preity Zinta), and he did some of his best loose-limbed dancing in the nerd boy’s baggy trousers.
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The 2006 sequel, “Krrish,” saw young Roshan, in full buffed-out splendor, establishing himself as a homegrown desi superhero, a mystery man who turned out to be Rohit Mehra’s mutant offspring. Zinta was replaced by the luscious Priyanka Chopra, and the film worked best as a sort of high-speed family melodrama, in which the coolest scene wasn’t a thunderous fight but a father-son reunion.
Roshan plays both roles again in “Krrish 3,” a more conventional comicbook movie in which a superbaddie named Kaal (Vivek Oberoi) attempts to unleash a deadly virus upon Mumbai. Kaal has whatever powers seem to be needed in a given scene, and though confined to a wheelchair like Professor X, he has a Magneto-esque ability to attract metal, assembling a suit of super-armor from the flying floorboards of his lab (which unfortunately look like glued on sheets of tin foil).
The effects and action feel lightweight compared to those of Hollywood — or even the expensive, sci-fi-flavored Tamil headbangers of South Indian superstar Rajnikanth, such as “Sivaji the Boss” and “Enthiran.” That lightness, though, is part of the movie’s charm. There hasn’t been the slightest attempt to make the science-y stuff in the film feel authentic — not when daffy Rohit is building a Rube Goldberg device that can bring plants and possibly humans back to life out of sunlight, mirrors and a convenient silver wand that looks like a Sonic Screwdriver left over from “Doctor Who.”
All credit to “Krrish 3” for not being an audience-pummeling industrial product like most of Hollywood’s superhero films. It has the off-hand, anything-is-possible spirit of a children’s book or fairy tale.