Two films enter, one film leaves

It’s a no-holds-barred grudge match between banal American comedy and Bollywood excess.

Gabriel Shapiro

When visionary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray wrote his book “Our Films, Their Films,” this is not what he had in mind. The project here is to pit two films against one another in a series of categories.

The films are “Kal Ho Naa Ho,” a recent Bollywood love story, and “50 First Dates,” the new Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore vehicle. Using rigorous, critical reasoning and good, hard science (that is to say, arbitrary, drunken speculation), we’ve determined which film “wins” each category. The winner of the most categories is then crowned “Queen of the Schmaltz” for the foreseeable future.

Now, some of you might not have ever been exposed to the singing, sparkling, Technicolor glory that is Bollywood cinema, but that’s okay. We’re here to help sort you out. On the other hand, most of you have seen an Adam Sandler movie; but before you start rolling your eyes in disapproval, we’re going to try to compare it to something totally foreign, not just judge it on its own merit (or lack thereof).

There are nine categories: comedic value, dramatic tension, star power, production value, creative writing, music, biggest drawback, cheap shots and the bonus round. Remember people, this is scientific, don’t try this at home.

• • •



Comedic Value

Saif Ali Khan acts his little heart out, and he’s funny, but subtitle problems and cultural specificities with some of the jokes means several jokes are likely to go over the Western viewer’s head.

Winner! Adam Sandler seems to have recaptured the spark of his early greatness without losing some of the chops he’s picked up in his slightly higher-brow outing “Punch-Drunk Love.”

Dramatic Tension

Winner! Nothing piles on the gratuitous subplot drama like a classic Bollywood love story, and this film is destined to be a classic. It takes its time and even throws in some sad song and dance numbers.

Drew Barrymore isn’t as engaging as Preity Zinta and the Sandler-ites aim to blow off steam with a joke as soon as it starts building, unlike the slow boil of Bollywood love.

Star power

Tie! Shah Rukh Khan is the king of all Bollywood. Think of it in terms of pure numbers, for every person who doesn’t know who Khan is, there are probably four South Asians who’ve never heard of Adam Sandler.

Tie! Barrymore is a pedigreed Hollywood princess, Sandler is the crown prince of Jerry Lewis’ doofus throne and Dan Aykroyd plays a role. It’s a star bonanza!

Production Value

Winner! All the dance numbers are as lavish and gaudy as anyone could hope for. No expense was spared, no shots were half-assed, this one has big-budget written all over it.

Barrymore and Sandler’s production companies (Flower and Happy Madison, respectively) just can’t keep up with the Chopra family’s Dharma Productions, which is behind some of the biggest movies ever.

Creative Writing

It’s so Bolly it hurts. It’s all there: A wedding, a death, the love triangle. There’s some interesting commentary on South Asian diaspora communities, but it’s an obvious afterthought.

Winner! This is a sort of inversion of “Groundhog’s Day,” but not really. Sandler takes a stab at something new, because he’s usually the frustrated but sweet dolt. It’s nice to get away from that a bit.


Winner! This was a gimme. This movie features three huge hits, which are all awesome. “Maahi Ve” and “It’s the Time to Disco” are get-up-and-dance tracks that will make you do just that. Music rules in Bollywood.

Yuck. A compilation of B-grade artists doing covers of 1980s classics. It’s weird, and not in a good way. The best music moment is Sandler crying the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be Nice?”

Biggest Drawback

Since this and the next are both negative categories, the “winner” actually loses a point.

Winner! Why? Rob Schneider. He is never, ever funny. Not in his own horrific movies, and not here. His best work ever: getting the snot beaten out of him by a bat-wielding Barrymore. If only it were real.

Cheap Shots

Winner! What’s with all the gay jokes? This is the kind of “humor” that pisses everyone off. The right because they think any homosexuality is “icky” and lefties because it’s stupid and bigoted.

Plenty of cheap humor here, but none seems quite as offensive, maybe because it seems less like bashing a particular lifestyle.

The Bonus Round

There are lots of bonuses possible here, such as expanding cultural horizons, trying something new, etc., but as compelling as they are, they don’t quite stand up to animatronic walrus barf.

Winner! Why? Walrus vomit. That’s right, this might be the only film in which a gigantic walrus does tricks, then vomits all over someone (though the actual puking was done by the stunt double).

And The Winner Is

It’s a tie! Both have some great comedic moments, take some liberties with the old “fourth wall,” make tons of references to other related films and are worth a look. So, the question is really whether you want to get out and try something new, or fall back on a comfortable, familiar kind of movie. Either way, it’s a nice way to unwind from the hectic and often depressing world we’re living in these days