Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

2008, Movie, NR, 145 mins


Bollywood writer-director Kunal Kohli's spin on MARY POPPINS is less cloying than its high proportion of cute orphans, adorable animals and fairy-dusted whimsy -- starting with the nanny who's a real angel -- might suggest.

Arrogant businessman Ranbeer Talwar (Saif Ali Khan) is driving home from an awards dinner when he broadsides a small car, killing the occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Wallia, and orphaning their four children. The case goes to trial amid rampant media speculation that Ranbeer will get off scot-free because of his money and connections, but the judge has no intention of letting that happen and hands down a highly unusual sentence. Ranbeer must take in the Wallia children, Vashisht (Akshat Chopra), Aditi (Shriya Sharma), Iqbal (Rachit Sidana) and Avantika (Ayushi Berman), and raise them as though they were his own – that means no shipping them off to boarding school or pawning them off on hired help. He'll be checking in regularly, and if the children aren't happy, Ranbeer is going to jail. The assignment is a tall order: The resentful, grieving siblings have already worn out their welcome with various relatives, and they didn't even hate them -- they do, however, hate the man who killed their parents. Led by Vashisht, they set about making Ranbeer's life a living hell, and his flighty and none-too-bright girlfriend, Mallaika (Amisha Patel), is no help. Fortunately, God (Rishi Kapoor) takes a look around and realizes it's about time the Wallia kids got a cosmic break. So he sends them Geeta (Rani Mukherjee), a mischievous angel who bicycles down a rainbow and announces that she's the new nanny.

For all the heartwarming cuteness, Kohli makes the effort to give the characters a little more depth than the typical children's fantasy, and it pays off by making Ranbeer's inevitable transformation from icy ogre to warm father figure fairly convincing. Mukherjee's charm keeps the child-like Geeta from being thoroughly annoying, and the musical numbers are pleasant, if not particularly memorable. (In English and subtitled Hindi) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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