By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Film: "Phir Hera Pheri"; Cast: Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Bipasha Basu and Rimi Sen; Director: Neeraj Vora; Rating: * 1/2
You really can't miss the signposts. Brassy and insistent the humour in "Phir Hera Pheri" takes off from where the first part left off four years ago.
In case anyone has forgotten the first part of the film, "Phir Hera Pheri" serves up constant and whopping reminders of what once was.
To writer-director Neeraj Vora's credit, he succeeds in establishing a sense of continuity between the first part and the new edition of the "Hera Pheri" series (we presume it's a series because the film ends on an open note).
The three protagonists Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawal are still bumbling through what looks like a labyrinth of mind-boggling zigs and zags. Their bickering is still school boyish but noisily entertaining.
The plot tends to get into comic curves from which it seems impossible to retrieve it. But then there's always the next gag to giggle over.
Vora handles the characters with amusing aplomb. The trio of main players shuffle and juggle through what looks like a spiral of absurdities contrived to spotlight middle-class avarice.
Akshay is the key to the film's effectuality. He hops skips and jumps through the absurd mime games with unbridled gusto, dropping all inhibitions before the camera. Paresh is again in comic form. He always ends up adding that extra sparkle to almost every scene. Suniel is a quiet and responsive foil to his co-stars.
The three original "Hera Pheri" players are this time supported by an avalanche of eccentric overwrought characters from the fringes who enter and exit with amazing lack of grace.
Often the canvas resembles the waiting room of a crowded railway station.
The actors get into the swing of it with sweaty enthusiasm. Johnny Lever keeps his mood remarkably sombre. Too bad, audiences misconstrue his sobriety for satire. Sharad Saxena and Bhojpuri superstar Ravi Kishan as a couple of stammering gangsters swing the film's mood from the cinema of Indra Kumar to Priyadarshan, with dollops of David Dhawan thrown in for good measure.
And then there's Bipasha Basu playing a con girl, a bar girl dancer, a victim of fate and what have you.
Does it all add up? Yes and no.
The film has a certain rise-and-shine rhythm. But it fails to generate enough interest in the characters we already know.
However, if positivity is a predominant instinct in any comedy, then "Phir Hera Pheri" scores decent marks for remaining on the right side of the line of decorum. Known for his crude dialogues, writer-director Vora keeps this film remarkably free of vulgarity.
But if you think you can laugh incessantly at the goings on just because Akshay, Paresh and Suniel make a terrific team, then you are wrong.
The climax in a circus has the entire cast of heroes, villains, henchmen, con men, damsels-in-distress, plus a kidnapped little girl and a gorilla, running helter-skelter.
Maybe the sequel bites more than it can chew. But the comic romp has its biting moments.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3.5