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Review: Gurinder Chadha’s Bride & Prejudice on Buena Vista DVD

Twenty bucks says that the DVD’s interactive menus were designed by Mariah Carey.

2.5

Bride & Prejudice

Just as Gurinder Chandha’s Bend It Like Beckham negates its message of female empowerment by sexing-up its female leads, any ax the sex objects from the director’s equally shrill Bride & Prejudice may have to grind with their marriage-minded parents is contradicted by the film’s own shameless desire to ingratiate itself in the American marketplace. A Bollywoodized version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the film concerns an overzealous Indian woman’s attempts to marry her daughters (described by one character, sans rimshot, as “naked livewires—if you get too close you’ll get an electric shock of love”) and the Three’s Company-style hijinks that ensue when one daughter, Lalita (Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai), gets mixed up with an American played by Martin Henderson with a propensity for sticking his foot in his mouth. From India to Los Angeles, there isn’t a culture that isn’t reduced to a condescending spectacle of color-coded clichés, but Chandha reserves the most scorn for her own native India, lazily condemning Lalita’s mother’s desire to marry her daughters into money and mocking Indians who find money abroad (“As Gloria Estefan says, ‘The rhythm is gonna get you,’” yaps one annoying clusterfuck) while hypocritically selling a contemporary India’s soul to Harry Weinstein. The acting isn’t half bad and undiscriminating critics will be easily bamboozled by the film’s pretty colors, but the film’s broad humor is truly witless (a fight inside a movie theater between Henderson’s Will Darcy and a fellow hunk who’s also after Lalita may be the lamest bid any film has ever made for meta credibility) and the musical numbers range from screechy to screechier, the worst being “No Life Without Wife,” one of many songs that bring to mind the Spice Girls starring in a live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. If, according to the film, everyone has their hands on India, Chandra similarly has her hands on the American box office.

Image/Sound

Shadow delineation is weak, specks pop up on the print from time to time, and there’s a nasty little line that runs across the screen during chapter 14 (precisely when a jet takes off into the air), but this is a solid image overall, boasting luscious colors and skin tones and not a single incident of edge enhancement. The audio is equally solid though the songs don’t pack as much oomph as they could have. Of course, that may not be a bad thing.

Extras

There are dead spots galore in Gurinder Chadha and co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges’s commentary track but it’s chock-full of interesting moments, namely Chadha’s revelation that she struggled to balance Eastern and Western influences throughout the making of the film. Also included here are six deleted scenes, four extended songs, a serviceable making-of featurette, conversations with Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson, Ashanti’s impressive “item number” for the film, and trailers for A Lot Like Love and Dear Frankie.

Overall

Twenty bucks says that the DVD’s interactive menus were designed by Mariah Carey.

Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies, Naveen, andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Indira Varma, Nadira Babbar, Anupam Kher, Meghna Kothari, Peeya Rai Chowdhary, Nitin Chandra Ganatra, Sonali Kulkarni Director: Gurinder Chadha Screenwriter: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Running Time: 112 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2004 Release Date: July 5, 2005 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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