Look at the Action Replayy poster to the left. Bright colors and cheesy grins on the stars’ faces promise an all-out 1970s spectacle. The movie itself, however, is a half-baked, sloppy attempt at a romantic comedy that squanders its resources.
None of Action Replayy‘s shortcomings have anything to do with its stars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Akshay Kumar. They make the most out of the material they were given. Bachchan is beautiful and effortless, and Kumar is equally charming.
The problems stem primarily from the movie’s underwhelming lead character, Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapoor): a young man of indeterminate age who is simultaneously bland and obnoxious. His girlfriend, Tanya (Sudeepa Singh), is desperate to marry him. Bunty refuses because he doesn’t believe in marriage, thanks to the poor example set by his unhappy parents, Mala (Bachchan) and Kishen (Kumar).
Conveniently, Tanya’s scientist grandpa has a time machine. Bunty hops in, sets the dial for 1975, and presses the giant red button Tanya’s grandpa explicitly tells him not to press. He travels back in time and sets off in search of his still unmarried parents, hoping to make them fall in love before they are arranged to be married.
First, Bunty finds the younger version of Tanya’s grandpa and shows him the time machine. He says, in essence, “You built this in the future, and I broke it. Now fix it” — as if gramps can learn in a matter of days what took him 35 years to learn.
Bunty finds his parents’ younger selves and sets about trying to make them fall in love. Kishen is a timid dweeb, as indicated by the appallingly fake-looking set of buck teeth Kumar is forced to wear. Mala is both a local beauty and a thug. The first half of the movie is spent showing why they hate each other. Not until the second half does Bunty begin to turn Kishen into a confident stud and Mala into a demure lady. He accomplishes this by shouting at them.
The most confusing aspect of the movie is why no one in the seventies has any questions for Bunty: Who are you? How do you know so much about us? Why are you wearing such unusual clothing, like that t-shirt with a picture of Yoda on it, even though Star Wars doesn’t exist yet? Why do you keep calling us “Dad” and “Mom”?!
This particular time-travel premise worked fine in Back to the Future, but Action Replayy doesn’t seem to understand why it worked. There’s never any threat to Bunty, the way there was to Marty McFly, who needed to get his parents together before he faded from existence. Bunty has unlimited time to get make his parents fall in love. If he fails, they’ll still be together — if unhappy — and he’ll still be born.
Action Replayy also sidesteps one of the most interesting aspects of Back to the Future, in which the teenage version of Marty’s mother develops a crush on him. Instead, Mala’s lifelong friend, Mona (Neha Dhupia), smiles at Bunty a few times before asking him late in the movie, “Do you love me?” Given that the Bunty doesn’t interact with Mona at all before this, his answer is obviously “No.”
If the movie was interested in having any real emotional impact, Bunty would’ve gotten to know his grandparents, who died either before he was born or when he was very young. Instead, he makes jokes about which of them will die first. That he has no interest in them is indicative of Bunty’s shallow character and the movie’s lack of emotional understanding.
The fact that accomplished actors like Om Puri and Kirron Kher (who play Grandpa and Grandma, respectively) weren’t given more to do is just another example of how Action Replayy fails to fully utilize the considerable resources at its disposal. It’s instead content to be a tepid romantic comedy with flashy period costumes.