As the princess’s handmaiden, Nasim Pedrad at least has the comic timing that the rest of the cast, including, surprisingly, Will Smith, conspicuously lack. Smith understandably didn’t want to compete with Williams, but as the big, blue, top-knotted Genie, he’s uncharacteristically bland. Even the magic carpet in this movie looks bummed out.
What Batra is reaching for here is the fairy tale beguilements of Bollywood romance but without all the hoopla. He wants to tenderize the Bollywood clichés and bring the essence of their ardor into the real, teeming world of Mumbai.
Just in case we don’t register the mismatch, Rogen is outfitted to look especially shlubby, and he sports an unbecoming beard that never comes off. With his crack timing, he still manages to get a few laughs, but he would have gotten a whole lot more if the jokes were any good. Theron, meantime, is photographed in full glamour mode throughout. This is probably just as well, since, as an actress, she doesn’t appear to have a comic bone in her body. Therein lies the true mismatch in this coupling.
Best of all is Robert Downey Jr. Amid all the hardware, he alone in the Marvel series has consistently given top-notch performances. His work in “Endgame” is extraordinarily moving and makes me wish yet again that this great actor would on occasion see fit to be great in a movie that doesn’t require him to fill out a franchise.
The director has a good eye for semidocumentary detail, and the performances, which also include Bruce Dern as a veteran trainer, Gideon Adlon as Roman’s estranged daughter, and especially Jason Mitchell as a fellow inmate and trick rider, all have the sharp tang of authenticity.
What struck home the most forcefully for me in Cold War is its depiction, insidious and unrelenting, of how artists under communism suffered for their art. At its best, the film is like a bulletin from a benighted world.
This is one of those radical change-your-image performances that tries too hard to defy our expectations. Kidman has indeed proved in the past to be quite versatile, but this muddled, scabrous, neo-noir procedural does her no great favors.