Movie Review: Joker (2012)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Have you ever listened to a four-year-old girl tell a story? They usually sound something like this: “There once was a princess who flew to the moon, and then they ate cake, but she was really a donkey, and her dad was a mailman. The end.” That four-year-old girl’s story has better continuity than Joker.

Scientist Agastya (Akshay Kumar) is in danger of losing his research funding after his experimental device fails to make contact with extraterrestrials. He’s given one month to complete the project when his girlfriend, Diva (Sonakshi Sinha), informs Agastya that his brother called. His father is sick, and Agastya must return to India at once.

In India, Diva learns why Agastya kept his family a secret: he comes from a village whose population descended from patients who escaped from an insane asylum. Everyone in Paglapur is wacky, including Agastya’s brother, Babban (Shreyas Talpade), who speaks only in gibberish. (The film doesn’t bother to explain how gibberish-speaking Babban was able to communicate the message about Agastya’s sick father over the phone to Diva.)

Eventually the truth comes out: Agastya’s dad isn’t really sick. The local river has been dammed, and the villagers need Agastya’s help to get the dam removed so they can water their crops.

Unfortunately, the village was left off the survey maps created in the 1940s, and none of the regional bureaucrats want to claim jurisdiction over Paglapur. One of the bureaucrats compares the village to the joker in a deck of cards: it exists, but it doesn’t belong to any of the suits (or, in Paglapur’s case, states).

I think the bureaucrat’s explanation is where the movie lost me for good. What a dumb justification for a movie title. It’s not a great analogy in the first place, and the title is meant to prey on moviegoers’ mental shortcuts. “I think Akshay Kumar is funny, and a joker is someone who is funny, so Joker must be another funny Akshay Kumar movie. Take my money, please!”

The surprise for those unfortunate moviegoers is that Kumar plays the straight man in Joker. He spends an uncharacteristically small amount of time running around and screaming, compared to many of his recent roles. Not only is Kumar himself not funny, neither is the rest of the cast.

Babban’s ceaseless gibberish is particularly grating. It’s the most annoying vocal tic I’ve heard since that character in Golmaal Returns who speaks only in vowels.

All the wacky character tics — the guy who thinks he’s a king, the guy dressed like a centurion, the kid who thinks he’s a lamp — are cover for an inane plot that seems like it’s being made up as it goes along. Events happen with no consideration for how to get from Point A to Point B. Director Shirish Kunder just has everyone act nuts to distract the audience from the radical shifts in the plot.

There’s a mystery that runs throughout Joker: where are all the women? There’s not a single female villager inΒ Paglapur — apart from Diva, who has little to do in the film besides look bemused — yet ladies materialize from nowhere whenever a song-and-dance number starts. The absence of estrogen in town may explain why Babban falls for the first woman he sees, a news reporter played by Minissha Lamba, in one of the most underused cameos I’ve ever seen.

So, what are the positives about Joker? Chitrangda Singh looks gorgeous in the item number “Kaafirana.” Agastya’s American nemesis, Simon (Alexx O’Nell), has a magnificent head of curly red hair. Joker‘s runtime is mercifully short, at just about 100 minutes. Those probably aren’t good enough reasons to spend $10 on a movie ticket.


29 thoughts on “Movie Review: Joker (2012)

  1. Anushka

    LOL..the film has been trashed and slapped all over the media..Going by the review,it looks like the atrocious Adam Sandler films.

    1. Kathy

      The most positive review I’ve seen, Anushka, said essentially: “It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.” Not a ringing endorsement.

  2. Pavan

    Poor Kathy…i guess the joke was on you πŸ˜› and going by your review looks like a circus clown is funnier.By the way its ‘paglapur’ and not ‘palagpur’ as mentioned in your review. Although, i think the village’s name should be ‘pagalpur’ which translates to ‘madplace’ or ‘crazyplace’ πŸ™‚

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for catching my misspelling, Pavan. I made the corrections. Thank you for feeling sorry for me. πŸ™‚

  3. Keyur Seta

    My sympathies with you, Kathy πŸ™‚ The only positive thing Kunder can take from this review is that you’ve given it a better rating than Do Knot Disturb and Rascals πŸ˜›

    By the way, I saw Jalpari today. Didn’t like it. But apart from both the films starting from J, I found another similarity between it and Joker. In Jalpari, there were no girls among the children in the whole village. But there is a logical reason behind it πŸ™‚

    And I had seen Marathi movie Kutumb yesterday. Found it just okay. So now I am itching to see a fully satisfying movie πŸ˜€

    1. Kathy

      Ha! “Shirish Kunder is a better director than David Dhawan” is faint praise indeed. Hilarious!

      Too bad about Jalpari and Kutumb, Keyur. Joker is basically a dumb version of Swades, so at least watching it has reminded me that I should watch Swades again soon.

      1. Keyur Seta

        Faint praise! Kunder will take that πŸ˜› Lol!
        Yes, after reading the plot of Joker, it does seem so similar to Swades πŸ™‚ I have deep respect for the latter πŸ™‚

    1. Kathy

      I don’t know, TS. The reason they gave in the movie was stupid. So many other titles would’ve been better. For example, something like “Off the Map” or “Out of This World” (or their Hindi equivalents) would’ve been more descriptive. A title is really important for setting audience expectations, and they totally blew it with “Joker.”

  4. TS

    I think even akshay had doubts about the suceess of the movie thats why he was not even promoting it. After finshing the movie i think he realised that -oh what the hell have I done. this is even worse than my previous nonsense Housefull 2. Dont they read the scripts properly before signing?

    1. Keyur Seta

      Very interesting! I think the first point is the reason.

      By the way, Akshay is wholeheartedly promoting Oh My God where he is not even the main lead. He started promoting more than a month before its release on a number of TV shows.

  5. Jeff Gibson

    Hi sister,

    Thank you for your review of The Joker. It looks like another ‘Hindi blockbuster’ with Akshay Kumar to avoid.

    The last film I saw of his was Khatta Meetha in which he managed the near on impossible task of making Trisha Krishnan look awkward in playing his love interest.

    I’m trying ever so hard to find some Hindi films that can bring me as much joy as Telugu and Tamil films have done on a regular basis.
    It’s just not happening.

    1. Kathy

      Hi, Jeff! Akshay Kumar is probably the most unpredictable star in terms of the quality of his films. Don’t give up on Hindi films just because of him! If you haven’t seen Kahaani yet, seek it out. It’s great.

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    This movie is a bunch of donky and ass waste of time waste of energy waste of etc this movie is realy fucking movie who make this i dont know i think director is very PAGLA

  8. Jeff Gibson

    Hi Kathy,

    I had the pleasure of watching Kahaani last night.
    Loved it from the moment the taxi driver stepped forward and showed some respect. πŸ™‚

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