Review – Big Trouble In Little Pakistan (“Polite Society”)

Written & directed by Nida Manzoor, the creator of the off-the-wall comedy Peacock streaming series, We Are Lady Parts, this comedic martial arts movie marks her debut as a motion picture writer & director. What makes this film unusual is that it features not only an all-female cast, but deals with kick-ass sisters, Hollywood stuntwomen, and a marriage heist!

All she wants to do is be a stuntwoman, like her idol, IRL stuntwoman Eunice Huthart. But for Ria Khan (Priya Kansara), she’s got a few hurdles to jump over first. Her parents want her to be a doctor and have her go to an expensive all-girl private school, where she chums around with Clara & Alba (Seraphina Beh & Ella Bruccoleri), occasionally running afoul of the school bully, Kovacs (Shona Babayemi). Meanwhile, a ginormous party is thrown by the town’s most wealthiest woman, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), in honor of her super-handsome, baby-doctor son, Salim (Akshay Khanna), who’s also a momma’s boy! At this party, Ria’s drop-out art student Lena (Ritu Arya), has caught the eye of Salim, and sparks fly, much to the chagrin of Ria. 

As Lena falls for Salim, Ria goes into jealousy mode and instigates various ways to break them up using her buddies and crazy schemes, but nothing ever works. But as her plans and schemes are put into motion, Ria learns that Raheela is one mother she should not mess around with!  As the first act plays out like Scott Pilgrim vs The World with almost cartoonish fights and title cards, the second act suddenly shifts gears in Matrix land as Ria, with her penchant for over-imagination (and slo-mo flying kicks), suspects Salim and his mom of doing nefarious shenanigans at their mansion and with her sister! But will anyone believe her, even after she’s seen some diabolical things? The third act flips back again into a sorta comedy-heist ala Oceans 8, as Ria and her pals try and save her sister from a fate worst than death at her wedding. And how is it everyone knows martial arts when there’s a fight?

Starting out slow, but building to a crescendo, this movie packs a whole lot into it whether it’s trying to be a comedy, drama, a spy/horror thriller, a crazy martial arts film, or a love story between two sisters. It wants to be all of these and throws all of it into the film willy-nilly, letting the chips fall where they may. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Occasionally the clashing plot(s) work against each other, breaking the flow of the story. If it had just been a straightforward comedy, that would have been much better and would have flowed evenly. Still, for her very first screenwriting and directing film debut, Nida Manzoor has made a damn fine film. She borrows heavily from other movies in fight choreography, which is just fine since this is supposed to be a parody of sorts.

Her casting is choice as well in this Bollywood-ish style of movie. Priya Kansara lights up the screen as the kid sister who could be the next MCU or DCEU superhero, given her strong screen presence and acting chops. She’s both funny and dramatic, kicking-ass with the best of them, while Ritu Arya is wonderful as her sister. The big surprise is Nimra Bucha as the villainous mother! She is one mutha you do not want to cross! And let’s hear for the supporting cast members of the three B’s: Beh, Bruccoleri, and Babayemi. They were all terrific and very funny.

**Now showing in theaters only 

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)

I love this movie! Seriously underrated and wildly imaginative, this is what happens if a video game/comic book came to life. Based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley and directed by whiz-bang director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), you had an automatic winner.

Michael Cera is perfectly cast as Scott Pilgrim, an introverted and insecure schlub who is also the bass guitarist for a punk/new wave band called “Sex Bob-omb”. He is dating a saccharine-sweet high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), much to the disapproval of his bandmates. While playing in a battle of the bands, Scott falls for magenta-haired and enigmatic Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Smitten, Scott dumps Knives, who goes all ballistic-crazy with jealousy. But Scott soon learns that to keep dating Ramona, he has to fight all of her “seven evil exes”! They range from crazy Bollywood dancer, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha) to a lesbian ninja (Mae Whitman) to more. 

Scott tries to get advice from his gay roommate, Wallace (Kieran Culkin), but nothing helps. Looks like he’ll have to fight to prove his love for Ramona. And fight he does! Chris Evans shows up as an egotistical skateboard actor and a super-powered vegan Brandon Routh both fight Scott, but the REAL fun is watching the fights, as none of them are shot or choreographed the same way twice! Each one has their own unique style and direction. . . and each ends with that familiar video game winning chime, bonus points floating on the screen, and gold coins spraying everywhere. And everyone acts as if this was the norm.

This is one crazy, outrageous, fun movie to watch with nods to the audience, sight gags, clever voice-overs, comic-book overlays, smash-cuts, animation, crazy music battles, and NO adherence to any rules of filmmaking. It is, in fact, a video game/comic book come to life! The ending, with a climatic sword fight between Scott and Gideon “G-Man” Graves (Jason Schwartzman), is wicked cool and reminiscent of “The Matrix”, but without all the confusion. A ridiculously funny and refreshing screenplay by Michael Bacall (21 Jump St) and Edgar Wright (who also directed and produced) and had two alternate endings: one where Scott wins Ramona as his girl, the other where Scott leaves Ramona for Knives (the graphic novel ending). 

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