From master-thriller makers comes this brisk and bouncy rib-tickler that purports to be a comic whodunit. Admittedly, some portions of the narrative keep you smiling and some make you bite your nail in suspense.
This is pleasurable silliness masquerading as a whodunit. To that extent it works, though you never know why the film had to have the title that it has when in fact China Town plays no part in it. Sure, paper dragons float by in the climatic song and we see some mongoloid faces in the chorus line. But er... is that all it takes to create China Town? Maybe Abbas-Mustan wanted the film to be more stylish than the other films. The ambience is saturated with vibrant colours and smooth songs (Himesh Reshammiya). The artwork, cinematography and editing are flamboyant without flaunting the glamour quotient or giving away the film's illogical plot. If this is meant to be a whodunit then the denouement comes as a big disappointment. But since the film showcases some truly eye-catching actors in ritzy clothes and sets that try to be upmarket and non-garish, you tend to forget how weakly the whodunit whimpers to a finish.
Paresh Rawal and Johnny Lever with their respective screen-wives Payal Rohatgi and Tanaaz Lal know how to roll their eyes without losing their focus on the film's suspenseful ambitions. But the dialogues are the pits. The joke about calling a lady a bomb that Upen Patel uses to flirt was used by Akshaye Khanna in Subhash Ghai's SHAADI SE PEHLE. Aridity of ideas or just production control? What really carries the script beyond its inherent wishy-washiness are the actors.
Akshaye Khanna, better here being serious after his over-the-top comedy in SHAADI SE PEHLE last month, plays the investigative officer with arresting élan. Vivek Shouq as his assistant has been given some deft behind-the-scenes humour to make his character come alive. Shahid and Kareena as the couple on the run share a warmth that somewhere transcends the plot. Kareena's chiselled beauty pervades the film, superseding the bevy of feminine beauties, including Priyanka Chopra's endearing walk-on part, whereas Shahid's comic timing and energy are eminently endearing. Upen as the Casanova in the casino makes an unusual stylish debut. He dances with confidence and holds his own even among the accomplished ensemble of actors.
36 CHINATOWN courts frivolity without falling flat on its face. There's a certain momentum to the humour that doesn't get diluted by the depleted denouement.