Every time I get home after watching one of those underwhelming remake or a franchise film in Hindi, the thought looms large about their very existence. If trade numbers are the only basis for analysis, it is alarming how about 80% of Hindi language films that minted money in 2017 belong to these categories. Is it an indication that our audiences are no more ready for fresh characters? Whatever be the answer, resultant products like Golmaal Again!!! end up as sheer ordeals instead being the so-called holiday entertainers.

Directed by Rohit Shetty, the film (as they say) is not made for cynics and the critics. Then again, if we look at the franchise or the genre at large, the edifice of Golmaal lies in its humour quotient. For a film that abounds in a set of proven comic actors, Golmaal Again tries so hard to generate some laughter and it’s truly upsetting when it doesn’t.

This time around, Shetty recreates the tomfoolery of his five leads (Ajay Devgn, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, Kunal Kemmu and Shreyas Talpade) with a fantasy twist and is set in the lush towns of Ooty and Coonoor. My first impression was how this franchise isn’t ageing well, much like Sajid Khan’s Houseful series. I could quickly draw parallels to an equally disappointing Malayalam film called In Ghost House Inn, which incidentally was the third edition to a very similar franchise. One must also not forget how the first film in the Golmaal series was a Malayalam remake as well. Without setting aside my suspicions for Shetty’s possible sources of inspiration, I had a glimmer of hope when the cast featured names like Tabu, Sanjay Mishra and Parineeti Chopra in key roles. Much to my dismay, the film turned out to be series of neatly chronicled events, none of which making it a full-fledged comedy or anything close to it.

This is no spoiler but Parineeti Chopra’s character, Khushi, is one of those typical Bollywood ghosts who possess the liberty to nit-pick ones who can see her. Tabu’s conveniently named Anna Mathew is a clairvoyant of sorts, whose presence in the story is puzzling to say the least. It is as if every local ‘spirit’ in Ooty seeks solace in her so that they attain what we popularly call ‘moksha’. I am not sure if this is a legal practice and also how she must be filing her taxes with whatsoever income she earns. Anna repeatedly mutters vague dialogues that declare how in matters of God there’s magic but hardly any logic. Whatever that means!

As for Khushi, her life goals consist of painting every possible wall, looking after her father’s estate ka kaam, writing cheesy diary entries (that too in 2017) besides showing up at wrong places at the wrong hours. She is not one of the boys unlike Kareena Kapoor in the last two editions but is the film’s pivot who drives this otherwise predictable story. The usual Golmaal faces collectively look bored and bereft of good lines and candid comic moments. Add to it a couple of cardboard villains, you get a run-of-the-mill template that is solely designed to mint money at the box office.

Through Golmaal Again Rohit Shetty makes sure to remind us that his brand of cinema is here to stay. The cinematographer (Jomon T. John) with his garishly coloured frames (sharp greens and neons in abundance) pay a needless tribute to Shetty’s own existing body of work. The look of the film, therefore, is so tacky and spoof-like to be taken seriously. The background score is numbing and the music is equally tuneless – although I didn’t mind the remixed version of the melodious Neend Churaye Meri. Another crucial downer is the film’s length as it wastes reels after reels on grown-up men acting like toddlers in their failing attempts to make us laugh. By the time the villains and their villainy are established, we are taxed – although these portions are relatively watchable.

Yes, one must acknowledge how the fantasy and drama bits work to a certain extent in Golmaal Returns. It is the classic good vs bad framework interspersed with some notable special effects. Through these parts till the finale, Golmaal Again reasonably involves you as Chopra’s character gets justice. And why is Neil Nitin Mukesh the go-to man to play baddie in these loud and terrible Bollywood blockbusters? If only he could twitch a couple of facial muscles to look half as ominous as he was required to.

As for the rest of the actors, Tabu tries hard to bring some subtlety to the tomfoolery around. Her character is devoid of funny traits which we wish wasn’t the case. Parineeti Chopra looks stunning and does a neat job. Out of all recurring characters, Ajay Devgn is the biggest disappointment with an uninspired performance. Kunal Kemmu manages stands out thanks to his incomparable screen presence and a bunch of decent lines. Tusshar Kapoor finds himself relegated to the background. Out of the rest, Johnny Lever is fantastic in his trademark avatar. The running Nana Patekar gags come out forced and is unfunny.

Another point that I had in mind was about the imperative (!) romantic track. Golmaal Again comfortably veers into the self-depreciating territory as the much-older Devgn romances the lissome Chopra. There’s also a Lamhe reference thrown in for effect and before you could realize their entire status quo changes. Having said that, it is alarming how the writers did not consider a possible romance between Devgn and Tabu rather which could have been easily broken a stereotype or two on contemporary cinema’s blatant sexism. Even otherwise we observe how the film is shamefully partial to her. While she gets a glam entry like other key players, Tabu isn’t featured in the brand’s quintessential song-and-dance routine. Are they meaning to tell us how a beautiful, middle-aged lady like her is not entitled to the no-holds-barred fun that a younger Chopra and a much-older Devgn and Warsi enjoy by default? Only if Rohit Shetty had plans to think rather than laughing all the way to the bank.