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Beach Blanket Bollywood


Can we call a moratorium on the trend of indie comedies that mine a specific immigrant subculture for wacky hilarity?

Films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Mambo Italiano and now Where's the Party, Yaar? flaunt an "ain't them foreigners funny" mentality that passes poorly written scripts for post-PC wit.

Of the three, Party proves the weakest. The film begins as young Hari (Sunil Malhorta) departs India for college in Houston. A mystic predicts he'll find his soulmate in the States. Instead he meets a reluctant tour guide in his "cousin" Mohan (Kal Penn), a spoiled and thoroughly Americanized playa with no time to baby-sit a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) houseguest. Predictable culture shock ensues for nerdy Hari, with ample jokes about deodorant and Chai.

Before things devolve into a two-hour episode of "Perfect Strangers," Mohan falls for sassy film student Janvi (Serena Varghese), whose documentary project provides a convenient vehicle for the filmmakers to indulge in a soapbox segment about the diversity of South Asian Americans. The movie peeks around a couple of almost-fascinating points, including a funny take on post-9-11 paranoia among Indians and an eye-opening look at how minority members who are assimilated into the popular culture discriminate against their too-ethnic brethren.

Where's the Party, Yaar? wants to be a zany John Hughes-esque coming-of-age tale, sort of a Sixteen Candles with curry on top. But it ends up poorly mimicking some Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon vehicle, with boorish stock characters, a convoluted romantic plot and gong-takes galore.

With its nods to (or parodies of) the windblown musical numbers prevalent in Bollywood romances, and random other partly obscure cultural references, the comedy aims for a young, brash Desi crowd who'll empathize with conflicted Mohan. Yet the Indian jokes feel more like Little Black Sambo humor than sharp satire of a cultural divide. A sitcom that can't quite take down its targeted sacred cows, this botched party only leaves the question, What's the Point, Yaar? Now playing at Landmark's Midtown Art Cinema.

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