Bend It Like Beckham maker Gurinder Chadha tries for another genre-blending, cross-cultural winner with It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, but her would-be spicy mix of Arsenic and Old Lace and Shaun of the Dead proves to be more of a lumpy mish-mash than a tasty masala.
A romantic comedy with a horror twist, the film finds an apparent serial killer at large among West London’s Indian community after a series of murders with curry connections – one victim force-fed vindaloo, another skewered by a chicken tikka kebab, and so on.
The culprit is quickly revealed as seemingly mild Indian mother Mrs Sethi (Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi), whose desperation to see her dumpy daughter Roopi (Goldy Notay) hitched has led her to take revenge on the meanies who previously turned Roopi down. Unfortunately, the spirits of her victims remain earthbound and won’t be reincarnated until Roopi finally gets married.
Chadha’s recipe for the film appears to be: throw everything to hand into the pot. The ingredients she’s gathered include kooky comic supporting characters, notably Mrs Sethi’s Jewish neighbour Mrs Goldstein (Zoë Wanamaker channelling Maureen Lipman’s Beattie) and Sally Hawkins’ dippy hippy chick, who’s come back from India believing she’s psychic. Then there’s the crime angle: a desultory investigation by antediluvian copper Mark Addy; and romance in the form of Addy’s chiselled young colleague Murthy (Heroes’ Sendhil Ramamurthy), who turns out to be Roopi’s love interest.
Chadha also tries to stir in essence of Ealing (the film is shot at Ealing Studios and set in the area), together with big chunks of other films: a dollop or two of Blithe Spirit (the ghosts unwillingly hanging around and Hawkins as a latter-day Madame Arcati), a pinch of An American Werewolf in London (said ghosts looking steadily worse for wear as the action wears on), and a soupcon of Carrie (a re-staging of the prom scene). Shame, then, that the result is a bit of a hash.
On general release from 21 April.