What’s Love Got to Do with It?

This romcom can’t arrange any freshness.

While India and Pakistan still have their ongoing conflicts, Working Title has released two English films with their respective themes. There was “Polite Society,” which loves Indian culture and strong women, and now, there is “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” which features an English documentarian and her Pakistani friend who sets himself up with an arranged marriage.

Unfortunately, as much as I’ve always know British romcoms (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary, etc.) are delightful, “What’s Love Got to Do with It” is basically more of the same, but with complaints about broken traditions and failed romances. And the humor isn’t lively or original as I would appreciate in the genre.

Lily James is charming as the documentary filmmaker named Zoe Stevenson, who decides to film the story of how her Pakistani childhood friend Kaz (Shazad Latif from “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) prepares for his upcoming arranged marriage. He thinks he wants this for his family’s sake, especially since his sister married a non-Pakistani man. And his parents arrange Maymouna (Sajal Aly) for him, although she doesn’t seem happy either.

Zoe is the kind of person who would tell her own versions of fairytales, like how Red Riding Hood would sleep with the womanizing Big Bad Wolf or how Snow White would eat the poisoned apple as a suicide attempt. Reason is that on the side, she babysits the little girls of her friend (Alice Orr-Ewing), who finds out her husband is having an affair. Zoe is the person who feels romance is nothing but a joke. I bet she would have loved to meet Rebel Wilson’s character in “Isn’t It Romantic.” Now, that would have been chemistry all its own.

Emma Thompson co-stars as Zoe’s lonely, single mom, who arranges for her a date with a veterinarian named James (Oliver Chris). But even this charming guy can see Zoe isn’t happy with him, but rather “fine,” which isn’t all that romantic to them. And the mom wants Zoe to find her happily ever after.

When we travel to Pakistan for the wedding, we’re able to see some elaborate dancing and decor. It looks like a gorgeous wedding, and I’m sure the guests think the same thing. Director Shekhar Kapur (in his first entry since “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) makes “What’s Love Got to Do with It” look like a perfect British romcom, and writer Jemima Goldsmith seems to enjoy writing about a documentary filmmaker looking for something special, but their collaboration is missing the kind of sparkle to make it all delightful.

It basically becomes repetitive with the complaints I’ve mentioned, and the fairy tale jokes wear out their welcome. I’m not even sure if the kids in Zoe’s perspective are actually hearing these stories, but rather we, the audience, assume she’s just talking to us. If the kids were actually hearing them, they would have weird dispositions on their faces. After all, in “Clerks,” Jeff Anderson refused to read dirty VHS titles in front of a little girl, but the movie wanted us to think he did. Now, that was original.

James channels on a British Renee Zellweger, by being an opposite romantic version of her, while Latif does some solid work as a Pakistani man who feels obligated to marry someone of his kind, but isn’t happy. None of these two characters are happy, and yet somehow, they work together. It’s definitely because of their childhood, which grew and grew.

The two South Asian countries can collide better on film than in reality, given the ongoing circumstances. I may not be completely right, because I try to stay in my own world, one that has no conflicts. But this romcom here needed a little more pizazz and honesty and less on the cynicism.

I can’t RSVP to this wedding.

Rating: 2 out of 4.

Categories: comedy, Romance

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