Bollywood meets “La La Land,” not in a fortuitous way, via “Basmati Blues,” a broadly played though vibrantly photographed musical romantic-comedy that fails to find a happy medium between cute-and-clever and simply cloying.
A spirited Brie Larson plays Linda Watt, an accomplished but naïve New York-based scientist who, along with her father (Scott Bakula) has developed a new higher-yielding strain of drought-and-flood resistant rice for the Mogil corporation.
She’s quickly dispatched to India on a three-week PR mission to gain the trust of local farmers, not knowing that her calculating CEO (Donald Sutherland), just like “Okja’s” Tilda Swinton, harbors a greedy heart beneath a veneer of benevolent sustainability.
Called upon to break into vapid song at any given moment while juggling a pair of attentive suitors (Utkarsh Ambudkar and Saahil Sehgal) Larson gamely gives it her all, as does the rest of the cast, including Broadway veteran Tyne Daly as Sutherland’s partner in crime.
Despite his attempt to graft an environmental message onto a traditional musical template, there’s little about director Danny Baron’s feature debut that feels convincingly organic to either the plotting or the characterizations.
Other than serving to reveal whether 82-year-old Sutherland may have missed his calling as a song-and-dance man (he hasn’t), the mushy, overheated “Basmati Blues” is enough to make you want to swear off carbs.
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Playing: ArcLight Santa Monica