Fun action comedy ‘Polite Society’ delivers some punch; ’80 for Brady’ an embarrassment to behold

Ready for action: Priya Kansar is all set to get some in ‘Polite Society’.

POLITE SOCIETY *** (104 minutes) M
With its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, Polite Society plays out as a very enjoyable, highly likeable comedy spoofing the tradition of arranged marriages as a girl attempts to spoil the wedding plans of her older sister.

Feisty British schoolgirl and wannabe stuntwoman Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) is distressed when she discovers her sibling Lena (Ritu Arya) is set to marry Salim (Akshay Khanna), a handsome and successful suitor who, Ria discovers, has been diligently working his way through a list of marriage candidates assembled by his overbearing mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha, who’s especially good).

Motivating Ria is how Lena’s decision is based on marriage as her best available option. Having given up on her dreams of being an artist, surrendering to Pakistani tradition and pleasing her mother seems like a good deal to Lena.

But not to Ria, who recruits her friends to spoil the relationship, all on the presumption that it’s something Lena doesn’t want.

Zesty performances and strong characters keep things afloat, with writer/director Nida Manzoor staging some fun stoushes, her love of Jackie Chan showing through heightened fight scenes amidst the machinations of the scheming Ria. She certainly has a flair for roundhouse kicks and slo-mo.

Things go a bit crazy in the third-act as a rather clunky sci-fi element is awkwardly dropped into what could otherwise have been a solid, character-based dramedy about sibling rivalry, romance and the questionable value of family customs.

It comes off as being a bit loopy compared to the film’s nicely grounded first hour, but it’s handled well enough with a nice climactic zing in the final fight.

Whether Polite Society is meant to be a “girl power” film is a dubious proposition. Sure, females are seen fighting each other and questioning their parents, but if that’s the intent it’s well-buried as the fun is prioritized over the feminism. Thank God.

What were they thinking? Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin & Sally Field in ’80 for Brady’.

80 FOR BRADY 1/2 (95 minutes) M
Though it’s meant to be a daffy, innocuous comedy about four elderly women going to the Superbowl, 80 for Brady is one of the saddest movies you are likely to see in a long while. You might even shed a tear and leave the cinema inconsolably depressed.

Apparently “inspired” by a real life story, four close friends head off to the Superbowl to watch their hero Tom Brady in action as a quarterback for the Patriots. En route each go through mild character challenges regarding romance, honesty, domestic routine, spousal loss and so forth.

Brady produced the film and stars as himself, usually appearing as an imaginary confidante to the women as they try making their way to the game.

The film stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field and Rita Morena, four extraordinary actresses each with a formidable legacy.

So the question must be asked: what the heck possessed them to take part in such drivel?

Watching the film unfurl you’re continually reminded of the talent being wasted. These women are feminist figureheads whose careers are defined by breaking barriers and forging the place of women in popular entertainment. What are they doing in a stupid feather-weight comedy about four old biddies salivating over a football player?

Anyone who knows or cares about the contribution they have made will no doubt squirm through the film, finding much of it embarrassing to behold.

Arguably the most cringe-worthy scene is when the wig-addicted Fonda – now 85 and resembling a CGI version of herself, thanks to all that facework – charms a young aged facility manager.

When Fonda and Tomlin share the frame, one can’t help but wonder what kind of film they could have made knocking their heads together as writer/producers with Moreno and Field as associates.

The film is a showcase of wasted potential. And be warned: one scene has them all dancing. It’s awful, sad, you’ll feel your heart drop to the floor. Why, girls, why?

Even as a harmless comedy the film falls flat. Director Kyle Marvin gives the film no sense of comic pacing or even any cinematic flair. The thing looks like a piece of throwaway streaming fodder. There’s no panache, no style.

As for why Food Network star Guy Fieri has such a huge role in the film, the explanation must be that he is a much bigger star in the US than he is here, where you can see him stuffing his face on late-night TV. He might be a great presenter, but as an actor he’s not much chop.

Still, there’s one aspect of 80 for Brady that can’t be faulted, and that’s product placement. The film is lousy with it, and of all the signage peppered throughout, a special award must go to Microsoft Surface for Most Blatant Branding. Well done.

It raises an unintentional laugh in a resolutely stupid film in which a cast of great veteran actresses hit bottom in perfect sync.

It’s remotely possible those who revel in watching bad films because they are bad might derive a measure of perverse delight seeing all that talent wasted.

Apart from that, forget it – even when it hits the stream.