It feels like the perfect time to be writing about Bollywood. Hardly a week goes by without some brazen new act of synergy being committed, like the news that DreamWorks SKG is getting bankrolled by the Indian company Reliance-ADA. There are some worrying indications for the future of this rapprochement, however, in the CGI-animated talking-dog comedy Roadside Romeo, an initial co-production between the top Indian banner Yash Raj and the Walt Disney Company—a collaboration that feels paralyzed by self-consciousness. It’s almost certainly a coincidence that the premise is a dead ringer for Disney’s current domestic hit Beverly Hills Chihuahua: A pampered rich pooch is abandoned and becomes a homeless stray, but because of his craftiness ends up as the alpha male of a pack of lovable mutts. It would be charitable to forgive this first attempt its technical shortcomings; while the virtual set design is first-rate, the character animation is often clunky and inexpressive. What’s harder to excuse is the drabness of the storytelling, the repetitive sitcom dilemmas that are closer to Top Cat than Ratatouille. The performers in the dandy voice cast, led by Saif Ali Khan, can only do so much to energize these static situations. You’d think the free-for-all atmosphere of the best Bollywood romps would be a perfect fit in the CG realm. So did the showmen who brought us the ebullient Jhoom Barabar Jhoom feel inhibited because some Hollywood suits were looking over their shoulders? They’re gonna need to snap out of it tout de suite or this relationship is doomed.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 22, 2008