Neal Vitale's 2008 Oscar Picks

Chandni Chowk to China

3.5 stars out of 5

Has director Nikhil Advani combined with Warner Brothers to finally achieve the American breakthrough so long predicted for Bollywood? Chandni Chowk has a lot going for it: music, comedy (including a lot of slapstick) and kung fu. It has a few things going against it: it is more than two hours long and contains only about a dozen words of English. Has America grown up enough to get past the whole "I don't do subtitles" thing that has cursed foreign films here since the invention of... well, subtitles? The answer to that is above my pay grade. All I know for sure is that it is an entertaining film with attractive stars and a love-to-hate-him villain. And, of course, the film is a cynical hybrid, attempting to appeal to both the vast Indian market and the vast Chinese market (the characters speak Hindi, Cantonese and Mandarin, salted with the occasional English word or phrase). This mash-up/homage/pastiche will make you laugh and smile, no matter what your feelings about its component genres. Clean family fun--for families whose children are old enough to read.