Friday, March 30, 2007

Let's call this a warning

So, I can either give you some long explanation about where I've been (short version: Jake, Fiji, enough said) or I can just get to the heart of the matter: Kal Penn is breaking my heart.

Well, him and the freakin' wig-stylist on The Namesake.

Oh, no wig-stylist on The Namesake, you say? To which I can only say: You clearly haven't seen it yet. I am not talking about the 1980s teenager hair; that at least had a context. No, I'm talking about later in the movie when he's supposed to be hip, happening, and dating the woman who cannot maintain the consistency of her "British" accent for the length of a vowell. I am hoping when I say it's a wig, because if that's what they did to his actual hair, I won't be able to sleep tonight.

What, I ask you, happened to the sexy hair from Harold and Kumar? And that swoony voice? And the charm? What the hell happened to Kal Penn's charm? Not to put too fine a point on it: the blunts in Harold and Kumar were the least of the things that were smokin'.

In The Namesake, the Kal that we know and love (and bicker over to the point of bloodshed in movie theatre parking lots) is almost entirely extinguished. He has a single good moment in the marketplace in India, and like a brief meteor shower, its brilliance flashes and is gone. Other than that? He is totally ... damp.

I mean, maybe it's not all his fault. It's not just the wig, is it? He is saddled with the worst role in that narrative. A luckless enough part in the novel that was in no way improved by the translation to the screen. And even worse? Dude has to act up against Irfan Khan, who neatly, gently, lovingly mops the floor with him. (These people said it better than I could.)

The reasons to see the film -- because of whom I do recommend that you see the film -- are Irfan Khan and his luminous costar Tabu. (See how I just used "luminous" with no sarcasm intended? When does that ever happen, I ask you?) These two actors do not flash the seams of their performances at you; the characters, the human beings they are, simply exist, in all their sweetness and mortality.

And so, could we really ask Kal to compete? Could we? It hardly seems fair.

We would forgive him his youth, his inexperience, his folly -- we're sure that Ashoke and Ashima could convince us to forgive him -- if not for the guest appearances on Law and Order and 24. Cause, seriously, those really, really blew. To say nothing of the non-speaking part in Superman Returns. As MeiMei so eloquently put it, "What the hell was he doing in that movie?" To which I could only reply, "What the hell was anyone doing in that movie?"

And so, Kal, I'm afraid we here at M&C must issue a warning: John Cho is sooo looking like our favorite now. You might consider working it like the rent is due in the sequel.

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