Death by Chicken Tikka Masala in It's a Wonderful Afterlife
A lady-murderer is loose in West Londons Indian community, using food as her deadly weaponknife-point feedings of lava-hot vindaloo or suffocation by naan-dough. On this macabre setup, writer/director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) lays out a banquet of fretful Indian mama humor. Homicidally overprotective widowed mum Mrs. Sethi (Shabana Azmi) is our unlikely culprit, ready to put a chicken-tikka kebab through the throat of anyone who ridicules the marriage prospects for her frowsy daughter, Roopi (Goldy Notay). The best-bet suitor arrives as Raj (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the matinee-idol detective investigating the killings, bringing with him enough complications to prolong resolution to feature-length. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sethi is beset by a chorus of her victims restless ghosts, seen only by her and Roopis best friend, an ashram-frequenting Anglo wannabe played by Sally Hawkins. Hawkins has some good bits, as does a dry Zoë Wanamaker as Mrs. Sethis neighborin fact, its hard to take issue with the cast. But issue must be taken: Wonderful Afterlifes genre-hopping, including a replay of Carries finale with an exploding buffet at an Indian wedding, seems a stab at the successful channel-surf frolic of Spaced, but every gag is smothered by the prevailing tone of labored zaniness and generic, plucky mischief music alerting discerning viewers to abandon all hope of laughter.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.