It’s rare for a movie to announce so bluntly and accurately what it’s about and why it exists, but the numbskull Bollywood caper “Total Dhamaal” wastes no time: “It’s all about the money.” These are the first words you hear, sung in English, in an opening musical number so shimmeringly gaudy it would make Las Vegas blush.
So, yes, the plot involves suitcases full of rupees, coveted and chased by the usual assortment of bumblers, gangsters and civilians. But also, the makers of “Total Dhamaal” needlessly remind us, the movie exists to celebrate and, of course, to make money.
The making part is probably a given. “Total Dhamaal” (“Total Fun”) is the third installment of a popular series, all directed by Indra Kumar, with a simple comic philosophy: No physical gag is too silly or too juvenile; and, repetition can only up the ante.
This time around the guest stars include Madhuri Dixit, one of Hindi cinema’s biggest stars (and best dancers) of the late 1980s and ’90s, and Anil Kapoor. For long stretches, Ms. Dixit is the sole female in “Total Dhamaal” (“Bro,” uttered again and again in English, feels like a verbal tell), and she’s a welcome presence even if the movie drags her down more than she lifts it up.
The shaggy story, a sort of a poor cousin to “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” has its big climax in a zoo, where our hapless heroes wind up in their race to grab the cash. They pause to save the animals — a villain ex machina has poisoned their food — and, surprise, a lesson is learned: Kindness trumps greed.
The moral seems as tacked on as the villain. But it’s a sweet thought and not entirely out of keeping with a movie that for all its crassness, comic and commercial, is basically good-spirited.
And practical. One gag, in good Indian metaphysical tradition, has a man drowning in quicksand call for a rope; he’s handed a snake. There’s no perceptual error here, just this thought: Sometimes a snake is just a snake, but it’s not accidental that it can be used to pull a man from danger.
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Not rated. In Hindi, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes.
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