Movie review – Roadside Romeo

On paper it looks like such a slam dunk; Yash Raj Films, a top quality production house with access to the biggest talents in Bollywood, and Disney Films, an animation giant, collaborating to make a cutting-edge animated movie entirely produced in India. On screen, the result is pretty sad.

Created at the Tata Elxsi’s Visual Computing Lab in Bangalore, Roadside Romeo is the story of a resourceful dog who manages to survive and thrive in the mean streets of Mumbai after being abandoned by his affluent owners. Saif Ali Khan gives voice to the lead character and Kareena Kapoor is his glamorous amour, Laila.

Trailer of Roadside Romeo( much better than the movie)

As a parent of two, I have suffered through several humdrum animated movies aimed at kids and as such my expectations were not very high to start with. But Romeo is a particularly pathetic effort.

For one, this is a movie very confused about who its target audience is. One might make the assumption that it is the small fry, but then you have the item numbers! Imagine nude but anatomically neutral dogs doing sexy moves – it is a truly creepy sight. Then there is the heavy emphasis on Bambaiyya slang for most of the movie’s humor quota – not only is it completely lost in translation, but I suspect it is a caricature even to people in India. Though Javed Jaffrey as Charlie Anna with Karunanidhi looks and a heavy “Madrasi” accent is one of the bright spots in the movie,  the humor is lost to someone who is reading the subtitles to make sense of the movie.

This would have been a small obstacle if the movie had other redeeming qualities, but the script falls short – there are several moments which I can only describe by the radio term “dead air”- nothing happens for several frames. It is a shortcoming inexcusable in an animated movie, where the pace is supposed to be frenetic.

The story is also all over the place – is it about Romeo’s survival skills? It about his romance? Is it an action movie involving gangsters? Roadside Romeo uses every cinematic cliche associated with Bollywood, and just like the rest of Yash Raj Films have been doing lately, falls flat on its face.

Saif and Kareena ham it up, but it can’t save the movie. Having big names behind the microphone is a Hollywood tradition, but even here that can’t guarantee box-office success( witness the fate of “Bee Movie”, voiced by Jerry Seinfeld.)

In the end, Roadside Romeo falls victim to the same malaise that has been plaguing both Disney and Yash Raj Films – it is out of touch with the times, making movies using a formula that needs to be retired pronto. Hopefully its failure does not discourage the nascent animation efforts in India; there are wonderful stories waiting to be told and creative storytellers who can tell them – all that is required is the courage to break the mould.

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