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RA. One
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by Jay Seaver

"RA. One, G.One, meet SID 6.7."
3 stars

It may be hard for those who haven't seen many Bollywood productions before to believe, but "RA. One" is kind of disappointing because it just goes through the motions. Oh, sure, it's a musical sci-fi action/adventure comedy, and those aren't even a dime a dozen in India, but the filmmakers don't put those things together in a particularly interesting way. It's a combination of the most familiar and sometimes annoying parts of those genres, with the occasional clever or surprising bit only occasionally making the audience sit up and take notice.

Ten-year-old Prateek Subramaniam (Armaan Verma) loves video games and is great at them, but that doesn't mean having a father who programs them is cool. That goes double when one's father is as nerdy as Shekhar Subramanium (Shah Rukh Khan), an accident-prone dork who clearly won the heart of Prateek's mother Sonia (Kareena Kapoor) with his big heart and surprisingly good dance moves. Shekhar tries to please Prateek by giving his newest game an unstoppable villain, modeling it on Ravaan, the ten-faced demon of Hindu mythology. Prateek play-tests the game and pronounces it good, but it gets crossed with another piece of tech the company is developing and "RA. One" manages to escape to the outside world, looking for the boy who beat him. The best shot of stopping him: "G.One" (Khan), the game's hero, although bringing him to life may be a bit trickier.

There are a half-dozen credited writers on this thing, including star Shah Rukh Khan and director Anubhay Sinha, and yet there are some pretty severe flaws to the screenplay. Ignore that the technical details for how RA.One and G.One escape with all the powers that they have in a video game world are stupid even by the standards of bad science fiction, but the timeline frequently makes no sense. The comedy is generally lame and often inexplicable (Shekhar sees a Bad-era Michael Jackson poster on Prateek's wall and decides imitating MJ will make him seem tough and cool - really!). And as exciting and unexpected as one of the movie's big cliffhanger moments is, the rest of the movie is crippled character-wise because of it.

It's the sort of script that exists to tie action scenes together, and to be fair, Sinha and company do manage a few nice ones. The opening in-game bit is kind of snazzy, fully committing to the overdone CG-ness of the medium. There's a pretty darn good car chase in London, and the battles between RA. One and G.One (especially the first) are well-staged bits. They're not all great - the first one the audience gets when the scene switches to Mumbai goes on much too long to end on a very silly cameo (which is kind of the India section of the movie in a nutshell - wandering around and fizzling a bit, not knowing who the picture's hero is). The special effects are decent, and the 3D is surprisingly good for what the credits indicate is a post-conversion job.

The cast isn't bad, though there's a bit of a void at the top. Shah Rukh Khan has a lot of silly comedy bits placed in his lap, especially as Shekhar, and has a tough time finding the sincerity among the nerdiness in that role. As G.One, he handles the action well enough, but never really manages to give the film's action hero a strong personality. He dances well, though, pairing off nicely with Kareena Kapoor. Kapoor is the one who holds the movie together, playing the sensible one alongside both Khan and young Armaan Verma while still managing to be funny and charming. Shahana Goswami and Tom Wu are nice in supporting roles; it would have been nice to see more of them.

"RA. One" deserves some credit; it surprised me a few times, and the action/adventure elements are well done (take note, though, that a couple of the surprises are how characters are taken out in what is otherwise a family-friendly movie). Mostly, though, it's a big dumb action movie, and unlike the similar "Endhiran" ("The Robot"), the big doesn't quite overpower the dumb.

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originally posted: 11/04/11 01:06:05
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11/13/11 raheema perfect entertainment 4 stars
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