MOVIE REVIEW: Ikea-loving con artist hard to resist
THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR
Director: Ken Scott
Starring: Dhanush, Amrutha Sant, Erin Moriarty
Running time: 96 minutes
Verdict: A charming survival fantasy
Aladdin had his magic carpet. The hero of this "extraordinary journey" improvises with IKEA wardrobes, oversized Louis Vuitton trunks and a hot-air balloon.
Having honed his magic on the streets of Mumbai, Aja (Dhanush) is unusually resourceful when it comes to extricating himself from a tight spot.
Following the death of his hardworking single mother (Amrutha Sant), the irrepressible con artist travels to Paris in search of the father he never knew.
All he has is the airfare and a fake €100 note.
Aja's first stop in the City of Love is not The Louvre, Montmartre or even the Luxembourg Gardens, but a giant IKEA store - he has been obsessed by the Scandinavian furniture giant ever since he stumbled across one of their catalogues in a doctor's surgery when he was a kid.
There amongst the Kivik love seats and Lövbacken coffee tables, Aja spots the woman of his dreams.
Seducing the American-on-the-rebound (Erin Moriarty) with a nifty bit of domestic role play that pays homage to Fight Club, he arranges to meet her under the Eiffel Tower the following evening.
As the store closes, Aja beds down in the aforementioned wardrobe for a good night's sleep.
But in a terrible stroke of bad fortune, furniture removers collect said item sometime during the night.
When Aja emerges, sleepily, a few hours later, he discovers that he has crossed Chunnel in a truck that also happens to be transporting a group of illegal immigrants.
Failing to persuade Ben Miller's Pythonesque law enforcement officer that his passport is legitimate, Aja becomes stuck in a kind of stateless limbo, along with dozens of other displaced persons.
And that's just the beginning of this continent-hopping adventure, during which he stows away in Rome-bound actress Nelly Marnay's (Bérénice Bejo) super-sized luggage - their Bollywood dance routine brings the house down.
Still to come is Aja's surprise encounter with Libyan smugglers, which ultimately results in a quasi-religious parable that circles back to the film's title.
The humour in French-Canadian director Ken Scott's sprawling adaptation of Romain Puertolas' best-selling novel is uneven. Structurally, too, the film a bit flabby.
But the exuberance of this exotic tall tale is hard to resist And Tamil actor, producer, director, writer, lyricist and playback singer Venkatesh Prabhu (better known by his stage name Dhanush) knows exactly how to spin it.
Fabulist, feel-good entertainment with a lightly handled message about migration.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir opens on Thursday (May 2).