Three different cultural traditions come together in “Bazodee”: the melodrama of Bollywood, the calypso-infused Indo-Caribbean “Soca” music of Trinidad and Tobago, and the sitcom humor and aesthetics of American TV. This uneasy hybrid from director Todd Kessler, former showrunner and co-creator of small-screen kids staple “Blue’s Clues,” never finds its rhythm while detailing the tumultuous romantic dilemma that befalls a young woman smitten with real-life Soca superstar Machel Montano’s musician. Devoid of drama and light on memorable melodies, it’s apt to find scant appeal outside its niche target audience.
As one of the most popular Soca acts in the world, Montano is undeniably “Bazodee’s” biggest draw, though he proves a rather one-note presence in this, his acting debut. As admired singer Lee de Leon, Montano smiles brightly but emotes clunkily, which would be a more significant hindrance to the proceedings were it not for the fact that his co-stars are similarly wooden. That Kessler shoots his material (his second feature after 2008’s “Keith”) like any number of single-camera network comedies — full of blandly functional master shots and close-ups, all drenched in bright primary colors — only further lends the action an enervating flatness.
At the center of this amorous saga is Anita Panchouri (newcomer Natalie Perera), a Trinidad and Tobago native of Indian descent who’s set to wed Londoner Bharat Kumar (Staz Nair), a union that will also solidify a deal between Bharat’s wealthy father, Lokesh (Kriss Dosanjh), and Anita’s dad, Ram (Kabir Bedi). But their marital plans become complicated when, while picking up Bharat and his family at the airport, Anita runs into Lee and immediately inspires him to resume the musical career from which he’d retired. When fate subsequently sends Lee to play at Anita’s engagement party, their budding feelings for one another begin to blossom, and soon they’re overwhelmed by “bazodee,” a West Indian term for a state of dizzying love.
Caught between responsibility and passion, Anita frets and frowns before, per Bollywood dictates, opting to follow her heart rather than remain faithful to the rich hunk to whom she’s bound. “Bazodee” itself dutifully hews to convention, but its plotting is so torpid that it never feels as if there are any genuine stakes to the protagonist’s which-beau-should-I-choose predicament. Since Bharat is presented as a charming, affable good guy who doesn’t deserve to be blindsided by his fiancée’s betrayal, Claire Ince’s script turns his scheming-businessman brother Nikhil (Valmike Rampersad) into the scenario’s de facto villain, who’s intent on swindling Ram of his land and ruining Anita and Bharat’s marriage. Yet such dynamics prove muddled at best, and are ultimately resolved in a manner that’s preposterously convenient.
Director Kessler sprinkles various pop-song performances from Montano throughout the film, which eventually takes place during the island’s Carnival celebration. Nonetheless, in terms of staging, choreography and cinematography, there’s so little flair to these centerpiece Soca sequences that they come across as time-filler distractions from the story at hand. That’s especially dispiriting given that Kessler’s cast is a stilted bunch led by Perera, whose line readings are as unconvincing as her singing is underwhelming (in duets with Montano). Even Bedi, a Bollywood legend best known stateside for his role opposite Roger Moore in “Octopussy,” seems ill at ease in a role that requires him to be little more than a supportive papa and an entrepreneurial sap.
Comedic diversions involving Lee’s perpetually eye-rolling friends, as well as Anita playing matchmaker for her cousin and soon-to-be-brother-in-law, do little to energize “Bazodee,” which fails to capture either the freewheeling, joyous spirit of the Caribbean or the heady euphoria of blossoming romance. Instead, it succeeds only at proving Ram’s belief that sometimes, “disasters just happen.”