In interviews leading up to its release, Arshad Warsi suggested that his latest had been designed as an antidote to crass, double entendre-wielding films. Mr Joe B Carvalho is certainly cleaner than the average Bollywood comedy nowadays, but something’s been lost in the rinsing. A foul mouth isn’t a crime, an unfunny one is. In that respect, this film, directed by Samir Tewari, is as guilty as Grand Masti.
Joe B Carvalho (Arshad Warsi) is a bumbling detective who’s been hired by a rich old man to find his daughter. This is roughly the task given to Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, though that’s about it as far as similarities with Howard Hawks’ sublime 1946 film go. Mr Joe B Carvalho is, as you might expect, a straight lift from the Pink Panther series: the poster, the bluesy sax in the title theme, and half a dozen scenes not so much inspired as translated and transplanted.
It’s a pity, because Arshad Warsi doesn’t look bad even in borrowed clothes (Jolly LLB didn’t suffer from stealing from My Cousin Vinny). There are moments when his commitment to the most insubstantial of jokes lifts the film off the ground. Yet, in scene after scene, it crashes, weighed down by dragged-out routines and an over-populated plot that includes a schizophrenic assassin (Javed Jaffrey), a “dabangg” lady police officer (Soha Ali Khan) and several assorted villains, including a wasted Vijay Raaz.
There is one truly bright spark in the film. Jaffrey’s performance brings back memories of the time he turned a VJing gig into a variety show with Timex Timepass. In this film, he turns up as a bai, a sadhu, a blonde girl and a man with a giant afro, in addition to supplying the voices playing in his head. One could make a case for the elevation of his Carlos to the pantheon of incompetent Hindi movie assassins, along with Tinnu Anand’s ice-pick killer in Pushpak and Anupam Kher’s deleted, never-seen cameo as “Disco Killer” in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
This review appeared in Time Out Delhi.