The star being Chhota Bheem of course, and his gang comprising Chutki, Raju, Kalia, Dholu-Molu, and the talking monkey Jaggu.
In this film, laddu-eating Bheem (much like Popeye eats spinach for strength), is in for a unique challenge. The Bheem TV series often has stories with black magic and demons as themes. And in this film, too, we have the same background.
Rangda is a witch, who the film describes as 'shaitan ka saakshat roop', who is in hiding. She was defeated by a local god of the Bali kingdom and was kept in the "kaalchakra". Now as the Dholakpur king takes Bheem and his gang to Bali for a fun trip, Rangda awakens and is back.
Don't even ask how children are expected to understand and absorb themes like black magic, kaali shakti, etc.
All they get from the shudh-Hindi speaking characters is that this Rangda is a 'bad lady' who has loads of skulls in her cave. This character hasn't been watered down or the scariness diluted considering it's a children film.
Indeed, when the witch is in full glory with skulls, the scary statues, and her hair billowing monster-like, one could see a few kids creep up closer to their parents. Don't see why such themes should be a part of kids' films. Thankfully, her monster army is mostly comical with dribbling tongues and funny faces.
The characters remain lovable. Bheem is the leader of the gang, and the saviour. Chutki is the brain, who comes up with solutions and also fights the baddies, Raju is the kid who is as brave despite his age, and Kalia is the one jealous of Bheem and, often, the source of comedy.
Kids have another character to love in the film in the form of Arjun, the prince of Bali. The sour-sweet equation between Arjun and Bheem who start off on a bad note, but gradually warm up to each other, is fun.
As are the monkeys who have a special role to play. The songs are really good, with fun lyrics and picturisation. There's one describing the beauty of Bali, another that shows the competitiveness between Arjun and Bheem, and one where they're gearing up for battle.
The colours are rich, especially since Bali has taken inspiration from the actual place and has that Indonesian flavour.
One wishes that animation films leave the mythological characters behind and create contemporary ones that speak the language of kids today and addresses their issues. But considering the paucity of kid's films, this one makes for a reasonably good watch.
We all know who wins in the end, but the ride to the destination is fun, peppered with a good story, great characters and spunky songs. Worth a trip to the theatre.
Rating: 3 stars