Our desi Jacques Clouseau is played by Arshad Warsi. A bumbling detective, often more confused than the client, his name is Joe B Carvalho (that translates roughly to ‘you can make me do anything’). So the tone is set for a corny, slapstick-y comedy, but it’s tricky to get it right.
So here the villain (Jaaved Jaffrey) is named the ‘Big C’, short for Carlos. This character is made to suffer a multiple personality disorder, so that Jaffrey can be shown in drag a couple of times, and talk to himself in different voices. Also this criminal is so dangerous that just taking his name can cause death (the source of a hilarious scene with pizza delivery).
Our hero Joe is an upcoming detective who’s a bit of an adult ‘Dennis the Menace’. With good intentions but a clumsy hand, he ends up doing more harm than good. Ecstatic over receiving a Rs. 20,000 advance for a case, we see him counting the curls on a statue’s head while waiting for the client.
This client wants him to track down his daughter who has run away with her boyfriend. Joe is on the job but is caught up in a web of mistaken identity (who’d have thunk?).
The plot is simple, but the storytelling, especially in the second half is convoluted. Scenes drag on and it appears that the cast and crew are having a blast oblivious to the viewer. This feeling is reiterated when the film ends and we are shown ‘behind-the- scenes’ vignettes with the team filming!
These portions always throw off the film critic. The team seems to be working so hard and having so much fun. How did the film turn out like this, you wonder.
There are goofy gags like a number turned upside down causing confusion. Other recurring gags include using iconic dialogue from other movies (“itna sannata kyun hai bhai”) and Joe’s blind mother (Himani Shivpuri) falling out of a building or tripping on something.
The dialogue tries too hard to include word play in every conversation. There are a few goofy gems though, like the dialogue that plays on the ‘detective case’, ‘briefcase’, and ‘brief case’ (case is not brief, it is quite long). Otherwise the dialogue is pedestrian even comparing love with innerwear elastic.
The performances are the film’s savior. Arshad Warsi is apt for the goofy, bumbling detective role and his subtle comic prowess is a plus. However he doesn’t have much to do other than mumble a few dialogues.
Soha Ali Khan plays the cop (with the first few uniform buttons undone, and later in a bikini) who is tracking the case. Khan is earnest and effective, and even has the more interesting role.
The talented supporting cast including Vijay Raaz, Himani Shivpuri and Vrajesh Hirjeeare delightful individually, but are let down by the film.
Debut director Samir Tewari’s Mr. Joe B. Carvalho is not as funny as its title. It’s impossible to endure a below-par film for just a couple of funny moments. Too bad, really. It would have been wonderful to begin the New Year with a crackling comedy.
Rating: One and a half stars