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It's A Wonderful Afterlife

IT’S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE A murderess is loose in West London’s Indian community, using food as her deadly weapon — knifepoint feedings of lava-hot vindaloo or suffocation by naan dough. On this macabre setup, writer-director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) lays out a banquet of fretful Indian-mama humor. Homicidally overprotective widowed mum Mrs. Sethi (Shabana Azmi) is our unlikely culprit, ready to put a chicken-tikka kebab through the throat of anyone who ridicules the marriage prospects for her frowsy daughter, Roopi (Goldy Notay). The best-bet suitor arrives in the form of Raj (Sendhil Ramamurthy), the matinee-idol detective investigating the killings, bringing with him enough complications to prolong resolution to feature-length. Meanwhile, Mrs. Sethi is beset by a chorus of her victims’ restless ghosts, seen only to her and Roopi’s best friend, an ashram-frequenting Anglo wannabe played by Sally Hawkins. Hawkins has some good bits, as does a dry Zoë Wanamaker as Mrs. Sethi’s neighbor. In fact, it’s hard to take issue with the cast. But issue must be taken: Wonderful Afterlife’s genre-hopping, including a replay of Carrie’s finale with an exploding buffet at an Indian wedding, seems a stab at the successful channel-surf frolic of Spaced, but every gag is smothered by the prevailing tone of labored zaniness and generic, plucky “mischief music” alerting discerning viewers to abandon all hope of laughter. (Nick Pinkerton) (Naz 8)


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