voices of Shah Rukh Khan, Rakshanda Khan, Aryan Khan, Jaaved Jaffri
Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Animation films from Hollywood are no longer child's play. They mean business. Big dreams. Big bucks. Voices to match.
While the English-language original features Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter as the super-hero Mr Incredible and his wife Elastica, Shah Rukh Khan and Rakshanda Khan take on the vocal mantle in the dubbed Indian version... with immensely funny and sometimes moving results.
The animation-centric family in "Hum Hain Laajawab" looks so real because the feelings that they convey in action and words (more the former for sure) are plucked from the tree of life.
The importance of family values above all else, the triumph of good over evil and the importance of being honest to one's conscience are the main themes of "Hum Hain Laajawab". Added to these is the easily identifiable, warm and inviting voice of Shah Rukh Khan. And we have a film that takes us on fantasy frolic through some of the plushest special effects created out of wispy threads of make-believe.
Unlike "Finding Nemo" and "Sharks Tale" which were set underwater and therefore craftily distanced from reality on virtually every level, "The Incredibles" pitches itself in the thick of the metropolis. Revving cars, roaring guns and pitched battles fought in high-rise buildings are counterpoised by quaint scenes of domesticity.
Indeed the film's strongest element is its vision of a life lived on the fringe of normality after going beyond the brink of daredevilry.
What makes this variation on the Superman/Spiderman theme really rock is the protagonist's dual life as extended into a concoction of fantasy and escapism. The best moments in the film are those where Mr Laajawab tries to be a-not-so-incredible insurance executive.
His expressions of ennui with a 'normal' life are compounded by his wife Elastica's firm denial of her adventurous past to lead an average suburban housewife's life, totally distanced from the high-sky adventures.
The 'Incredible' family is brilliantly devised. Their two children, too, try desperately to fit into definition of normality... until the final outburst when the entire family dons super suits that vanquish evil.
The end game is much too commodiously conceived. The pyrotechnics go on and on until you become bone-weary watching the non-stop action. Perhaps "Hum Hain Laajawab" suffers from the too-much-too-'swoon' malady. The quicksilver editing creates an impression of a grand babble of bubbling action.
At the centre of the smart and slick action is the protagonist. A decent, conscientious family man who thinks fighting the wrong is what makes a man strong. Mr Incredible/Laajawab's battle with the baddies is rendered riveting by the roomy applause-fetching hi-jinks, shot with high-speed cameras that move faster than the speed of Shah Rukh's voice.
The film is fun and funny. But it lacks the innate warmth of "Shrek" or "The Lion King". You wish there were more domestic scenes like the one where the son and daughter hide behind the sofa to listen to their parents argue.
Director Brad Bird wants to keep the narrative constantly careening on the edge of a corny though canny catastrophe. Partly a takeoff on the James Bond films and partly spoofing the caped capers of Superman and Spider, "Hum Hain Laajawab" creates a simplistic yet holistic world of engaging optical illusions.
Some episodes like the one featuring the haughty cape designer Edna Mode are far cleverer than the surface juvenility of the material on hand. But the director's bristling bag of tricks never quite explodes with the energy of "Shrek". What you get is Shah Rukh Khan 'playing' the saviour of mankind through his voice.
And you can't say no to King Khan's plans to save the universe from impending disaster.