I try not to throw around the term "unwatchable" too often in my reviews, because nearly all movies have something about them, however infinitesimal, that's worth cheering for.
I also hate to break a personal rule, but "Marigold" is unwatchable; a genuine patience-shredder that aspires to lasso together a creative connection between Hollywood and Bollywood, only managing to make both exalted production hubs seem agonizingly hopeless.
A B-list actress making a career for herself in forgettable sex thrillers, Marigold (Ali Larter) is off to India to make a special appearance in a Bollywood movie. Finding her picture canceled, Marigold befriends a production coordinator who sneaks her into a musical currently filming. On the chaotic set, Marigold meets choreographer Prem (Salman Khan), and an immediate attraction sparks. However, as the two further shape their relationship, complications quickly arise, with Khan forced to choose between the obligations of his cultural heritage and his demanding heart, while Marigold finds India has changed her spoiled ways, yet she remains a helpless outsider.
The merging of Bollywood and Hollywood is an aesthetic that a few filmmakers have chased recently, only to see the mixture fail to rattle the world every single time. Why this quest? It makes little sense to me. "Marigold" affirms my confusion as director Willard Carroll ("Playing by Heart") labors to nail a peaceful tone amid the multi-colored hullabaloo. Carroll has a specific fanciful idea in mind with "Marigold," but apparently no idea how to pull it off, and the film becomes a chore to process due to the erratic nature of the story and its shockingly low production polish.
Granted, I'm no Bollywood scholar, having just spied a few motion pictures over the years, but there's a classic structure of melodrama and music in place that's come to define the Indian film industry. "Marigold" is an American attempt to splash in those waters, playing up the clichés while using the Caucasian perspective to detach from the fantastical tangents of Bollywood. Carroll's first mistake was hiring Ali Larter to be our guide.
"Heroes" schmeroes, Larter is a frightful actress, and her leaden ways sink "Marigold" to the bottom of the entertainment ocean. Unable to accurately portray spontaneity, wonder, or romantic fizz, Larter is bafflingly awful here, lapped by her strange co-stars and overshadowed by Carroll's demand that the film work in several musical numbers, all of which resemble glossy MTV reject videos, not flourishing, bouncy dance marathons. She's a horrible centerpiece of American buffoonery in a film that is too advanced for her limited performance skill, and when Carroll makes room for her to emote, it's like watching the death of acting itself. Larter is not leading lady material (or much of a dancer) and "Marigold" withers when she's asked to hold the frame with her nonexistent charisma.
The more interesting casting comes with Bollywood superstar Khan, yet technical malfunctions rob the actor's performance of anticipated passion and panty-removing swagger. While already resembling an Indian version of Michael Madsen, Khan is dubbed throughout "Marigold" with a hilariously growly voice (think bellhop Pee-Wee with atrocious lip-sync), turning Prem into a far more lecherous creation than Carroll intended.
In fact, all the looping in "Marigold" is strikingly unprofessional; it's not just limited to Kahn. Imagine trying to focus in on a heartfelt exchange of confessions from two hungry lovers, and it looks like a Saturday-afternoon UHF telecast of a kung-fu picture. The mood is effectively punctured.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio), the cinematography of "Marigold" is alive with colors and shimmer, and the DVD preserves the buoyancy well. Detail is strong, and black levels are consistent. Fleshtones are also surprisingly realistic, considering the blinding color scheme.
A 5.1 Dolby Digital mix does the sonic reach of "Marigold" justice with a strong soundstage of music cuts and atmospherics. Surrounds are left alone for the most part, with the frontal assault of the movie left to the musical numbers.
"The Making of 'Marigold'" (28:43) attempts to explore how the film came to be, through interviews with cast and crew. It's interesting to see B-roll footage, showing off the painstaking effort to put together massive dance numbers (sequences Carroll promptly edits to ribbons), but the interview audio is iffy at best, and the rest of the featurette is rather clumsily intercut with needless film footage reminders. Still, it helps to understand what Carroll was after with "Marigold," even if he misses his intended whimsy by a Midwest mile.
A Theatrical Trailer for "Marigold" has not been included on this DVD.
After a swirling first half with wretched stabs at comedy, cringing musical numbers, and Larter channeling her inner celebutard, "Marigold" pulls a bootlegger's turn and heads for unpardonable, suffocating melodrama in the second half, revealing Prem as a conflicted prince and Marigold a Bollywood natural. An effort to slog through the dreary conflict Carroll has imagined here should come ready with a prescription for cyanide pills, and it took every ounce of my restraint not to rip the DVD out of the player and snap it into two pieces. It seems the only thing worse than a faulty culture shock comedy with zero charm is a faulty culture shock comedy with zero charm starring Ali Larter.
Both Hollywood and Bollywood deserve a better representation/lampoon than this nonsense offers.