When Bollywood Meets Ealing
Sometimes you watch a movie and you can see that the idea is a good one but the execution doesn't come together. It is how I feel about "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" because it feels like Bollywood meets Ealing Comedies with a touch of the modern comedy horror of Pegg & Frost throw in whilst also tipping its hat to "Monty Python" and other movies with famous scenes. If that sounds both a lot and a right jumble it is and that is the problem with "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" it is trying to be too many things and becomes a bit of a disjointed jumble.
The police in Southall are baffled by a serial killer who is knocking off the residents of Little India and so with Raj Murthy (Sendhil Ramamurthy) assigned to the local station they want his knowledge of the community having grown up there to try and get answers. It brings him back into contact with Roopi (Goldy Notay) who he use to play with when they were children and her mother Mrs. Sethi (Shabana Azmi) who is desperate for Roopi to marry. In fact Mrs. Sethi is so desperate that she is the one doing the killing, murdering those who are mean about her daughter accept now she is haunted by the spirits of those she has murdered and some how they need to work together so that everyone can move on in peace.
At its heart "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" is the meeting of an Ealing comedy with a romantic comedy so we have the dear old lady who has been murdering people and then her daughter who she wishes would settle down. Now these two work well together as we have cops investigating who is doing the killing, the ghosts of the dead haunting Mrs. Sethi and their comical attempts to find Roopi a husband so that Mrs. Sethi can then die and so they can in turn move on. There is this fun mix of dark humour with tradition British rom-com humour as well as a little bit of Bollywood.
But the trouble is that this amusing basis of Ealing meets Bollywood then gets expanded upon and some of these things work whilst others don't. The whole homage to Monty Python's Mr Creosote works marvellously but then we get a homage to "Carrie" yes I did say "Carrie" and whilst an impressive scene it just doesn't fit in. And that aspect of one embellishment working the next not continues throughout making it a very up and down, disjointed movie.
Even though "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" does end up this rollercoaster of right and wrong one thing which is great from start to finish is the acting. Shabana Azmi is brilliant as Mrs. Sethi giving us that modern take on the classic Ealing little old lady whilst Goldy Notay as Roopi makes for a fun romantic lead as does Sendhil Ramamurthy as the dashing Raj Murthy. And then we have a case of who is who of British TV and comedy with the likes of Sanjeev Bhaskar, Mark Addy, Zoë Wanamaker and Jimi Mistry as well as numerous other actors who many will recognize from being on "Eastenders".
What this all boils down to is that "It's a Wonderful Afterlife" has the potential to be a great modern Bollywood meets Ealing comedy mix up. But unfortunately it feels like there are a few too many ideas thrown into the mixing pot and it becomes a bit disjointed as some things work and others fail.