This week my friend Kait and I went to the local Bollywood theatre to see one of the most popular new movies in the world: Dhoom: 3.
It would be hard to mistake Dhoom: 3 for a good movie. But if you don’t have fun watching Dhoom: 3, I’m not sure I can trust you. Film Critic Hulk says that it is “the most movie movie” that he’s ever seen, and what he means is, everything that people have traditionally shoehorned into movies is in Dhoom: 3. There is a tap-dance number. There is a transformer that can change from a motorcycle to a jet-ski. There are bank heists. There’s a guy looking out a penthouse apartment window over an entire city, plotting revenge. There’s a beautiful woman auditioning for a dancing role by stripping. There’s an action lead character who’s mentally impaired, with the actor disobeying the advice of Tropic Thunder and going full retard. Luckily a perfect, beautiful woman falls in love with the cartoonishly slow guy and promises to turn his life around.
Also, there is a circus with fire and juggling and acrobats and high-wire acts. Also, a girl writes a love poem to herself. Also, there’s a standoff on the Hoover Dam. Also, a cop dangles from a rope ladder hanging twenty feet out the back of a helicopter and, with one bullet, successfully shoots a thief on a motorcycle.
You get the idea.
You might be thinking that Dhoom: 3 is shameless. No. It is so sincere and self-confident that it isn’t even shameless. If you are shameless, that means you know you could have been ashamed, potentially. Dhoom: 3 does not even know shame exists. It is a weird sort of innocent: it wants to be entertaining and fun and thrilling, and as long as it is, who cares about everything else?
That sincerity is one thing that makes the movie so fun. Another great thing is the desire to have every possible entertainment on the screen, from a bank robber running down the facade of the bank building in slow-motion to our hero getting tied to railroad tracks at an amusement park. Yet another is that the movie is set entirely in Chicago.
We Americans have a grand tradition of setting movies in foreign countries and then using the exotic locales to get away with touristy racism. Dhoom: 3 turns the tables, using Chicago to the hilt: the midway, the L train, Wacker Drive, a boat chase on the river, and the Shedd Aquarium. But what’s most hilarious is when Bollywood gets it wrong. A chase scene abruptly shifts from downtown to a rural interstate highway and then back to downtown again. One character rents a high-rise apartment in northern Chicago with a picturesque view of an enormous mountain range. And, as I mentioned, eventually everybody winds up on the Hoover Dam, 1800 miles away.
But hey, we asked for it. All those western movies that appropriate Indian and Chinese monuments for our entertainment? Skyfall, in which a train chase scene that begins in Istanbul ends in the mountains of Kurdistan? Yeah, we totally deserve to have foreigners make movies that don’t understand America.
As much as I loved turning off my brain and enjoying the absurd spectacle of Dhoom: 3‘s Great Indian Circus, bank heists, and underwater motorcycle escapes, I also loved it when my brain perked up to say “Hey! That makes no sense!” It happened a lot:
- The proprietor of the Great Indian Circus keeps his company in a massive theatre with a front facade of Greek columns. It looks humongous and has GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS carved into the marble. But right backstage is his cool apartment, with a nice back yard and high ceilings and amazing interior decorating. That’s weird enough, but the first time we see him is in his other apartment, a high-rise penthouse completely empty except for a bed and a laptop computer. The penthouse never appears again.
- When the bank robber robs the Western Bank of Chicago, each time he does the same thing: throw all the money off the roof so it floats into the street below. This is how the bank realizes it has been robbed. Literally, breaking the bank means physically breaking it so that money will fall out.
- The Chicago Police Department’s initial plan is to simply chase the bank robber with 20 police cars. Then they bring in Indian cops to help track down the Indian suspect. The cops’ new plan is: to simply chase the bank robber with 20 police cars, and also 2 motorcycles.
- At some point, every female character, including a ranking police officer, wears a button-down shirt and ties it in a knot over her belly button so you can see her stomach.
- When Aamir Khan is ready to ride out of the back of a van on the motorcycle he hid inside, he opens the van’s back doors by making the van explode.
- Besides being a circusmaster, the villain is a master inventor who, among other things, invents motorcycles that can merge into other motorcycles to form supercycles. We never see the process, only the results.
Of course, if I pointed out every error, this review would take three hours to read. (My favorite, though: any time you see Chicago police cars crashing, you will have a very clear sight-line on the empty driver’s seat.) Dhoom: 3 takes three hours to watch, and they form an entertainment like no other.
Does this make Dhoom: 3 “so bad it’s good”? I’m not sure. It’s not good, but it’s not bad. It just has one goal, and one goal only: to give you a good time. It doesn’t care about making sense, continuity from one shot to the next, quality CGI, or accuracy about anything. It also kind of hates bankers, American cops, and the mentally disabled. All it loves is wild, mad spectacle.
Okay, forget what I said a minute ago. Dhoom: 3 is definitely a bad movie. And I haven’t had this much fun at the cinema in years.