The least you expect from an animation film are likeable characters, but Roadside Romeo is full of characters you couldn’t care less about. Except Charlie Anna that is, the film’s main bad-guy – or bad-dog to be precise.
The protagonist Romeo is an anglicised, well-bred canine who suddenly finds himself on the streets one day when the family he lived with moves westwards. Unaccustomed to being bullied and unfamiliar with the harsh ways of the real world, Romeo finds it hard to come to terms with his new life, until he’s welcomed into the fold by a bunch of fellow strays. It’s love at first sight when he spots Laila, the smokin’-hot dancer doggie who performs at the local club. But problem is, to get to Laila, Romeo must first get past Charlie Anna, the Vito Corleone of the streets, who’s got his own sights set on her.
Roadside Romeo is too busy, too crowded with Hindi-movie clichés and repeated flogging of moments from previous Yash Raj-hits to be even half-likeable.
Most successful animation is simple enough for even small children to easily identify with, but I don’t see little kids being drawn to the film’s key theme of wooing the neighborhood hottie; or being interested in its standard Hindi movie characters who spout filmi lines. To be honest it’s not a particularly rewarding film for adults either – it’s got a plot that’s worn thin from over-use, and it tries to be too cute for its own good.
The worst disease an animation film can suffer from is boringness, and Roadside Romeo contracts that infection quite early on. Even though it’s only ninety minutes in running time, the film feels like a half-dead horse plodding along laboriously. There’s a sense of been-there-done-that that accompanies so many scenes in the film, you’ve literally lost track of how many times you’ve seen them play out in different films before – like Romeo training Charlie Anna to be cool, even the scene in which he saves Charlie’s life and puts his own in jeopardy – it’s all yesterday’s news.
But in all fairness, the film does have a handful of clever ideas – like that sequence in which the strays are playing their favourite game of who can wake up the most humans by making the most noise in the street; or then the one in which the alley cat disguises herself as Laila and rejects Charlie Anna’s advances. It’s scenes like these that stand out and bring a smile to your face because they’re smartly written and unpredictable. Of the voice talent, it’s only Javed Jaffrey playing Charlie Anna who succeeds in creating a character who has a distinct personality. Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor who lend their voices to Romeo and Laila respectively, play it fairly straight and fail to give any edge to either character.
The animation in Roadside Romeo may be fairly simplistic, pitted against Pixar gems like Ratatouille and Wall-E most recently, but that’s not even what hurts the film most. It’s the lifeless script and its across-the-board uninteresting characters that are its biggest failing.
In the end, it’s difficult to determine exactly who the film was made for.
Because it doesn’t succeed in creating an exciting world where indeed every dog has its day, I’ll go with one out of five for director Jugal Hansraj’s Roadside Romeo. Go armed with a lot of patience and a comfortable pillow.
Cast: Kareena Kapoor (Laila), Saif Ali Khan (Romeo), Javed Jaffrey (Charlie Anna)
The least you expect from an animation film are likeable characters, but Roadside Romeo is full of characters you couldn't care less about.