Film — Bride & Prejudice (PG-13)
Bride & Prejudice (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

Innocence meets hokiness in the charming Jane Austen/Bollywood swirl with whipped cream and a cherry on top Bride & Prejudice, a movie so cute and sweet it will become the instant favorite of every ethnic-ish 9-year-old girl.

Which is not to say that you need to be a 9-year-old girl to enjoy it. But it would be helpful to forget what you might know about real-world love and romance and marriage. Nothing as gritty as reality ever dulls the candy-colored, flower-bright world of this musical comedy romance. In fact, I don’t recall anybody even kissing in Bride & Prejudice (much as it is in true Bollywood flicks — kissing is as risqué as full frontal nudity). The movie features girls who appear to be well past the age of sighs and daydreams singing earnestly about finding true love and their desires to marry a man who isn’t just The One but also doesn’t leave his dirty dishes in the sink.

Yeah, maybe in India…

As with Austen’s story, Bride features a gentlemanly but not-wealthy family of daughters whose rather pushy and embarrassing mother thinks of nothing but marrying them off. Lalita (Aishwarya Rai in the Lizzy role) is the independent-minded girl who wants true love, not just assured social position, in her marriage. Her milder older sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) agrees but is lucky to meet the practically perfect Balraji (Naveen Andrews). They are certain to make a happy match, but only if his haughty American friend Will Darcy (Kiwi Martin Henderson) doesn’t convince him to seek a wife elsewhere. It seems Will isn’t so fond of this more rustic part of India and is dismissive of the town to Lalita during their first meetings. Of course with all the hip-shaking Indian dance and love-themed song, Will can’t help but find his Darcy pride slipping away, even in the face of Lalita’s anti-anti-traditional-India prejudice. But their affections might be stunted when the handsome yet caddish Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies) shows up.

Like the big set-piece song-and-dance numbers, these two central romances of the movie are neither subtle nor unpredictable. But even if you’ve seen Pride & Prejudice in its more traditional forms (or in its updates, such as Bridget Jones’ Diary) this version is still enchanting enough to keep you, well, dazzled and entertained, even if it doesn’t keep you in suspense.

Bride & Prejudice teeters constantly on the edge of being too much — especially considering the rather mild pay-off of a basically chemistry-free romance between Lalita and her Mr. Darcy. But the movie never takes itself too seriously — it recognizes that at its base it is a big huggy romance wherein characters are likely to unself-consciously break into song in a crowded market as they are to pass a giant gospel choir serenading them on a Los Angeles beach (both scenes carry the hint of a wink at the audience without the usually accompanying smirk).

Bride & Prejudice delights you with color — the girls are dressed as brightly as any tropical flower — and cheers you with its sense of fun. Who knew Jane Austen looked so good in a henna tattoo?

- Amy Diaz

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