As Barfii, the deaf-mute man-child given epic treatment by writer-director Anurag Basu in the exhausting Bollywood import “Barfi!,” Ranbir Kapoor, a fourth-generation member of India’s Kapoor acting dynasty, proves a virtually silent, whirling dervish of slapstick, pathos and, at times, grinding irritation. Think: A Chaplin-infused hybrid of Mr. Bean and Gumby, with a dose of early Adam Sandler.
Kapoor is undeniably game. He walks into walls! He juggles bananas! He does the chicken dance! But like so much else here, he suffers from the more-is-less syndrome.
To wit, the film’s excessive length (not a Bollywood rarity) gives Basu’s twitchy, dizzying narrative too great a canvas on which to unravel as it flashes back from the present to 1970s-era Kolkata and Darjeeling, where most of the action is set.
The story begins by recounting how Barfii (nee Murphy) falls for the gently beautiful, already-engaged Shruti (Ileana D’cruz), but that potentially lyrical pairing gives way to Barfii’s wildly meandering relationship and, later, unconvincing romance with the feral, deeply autistic and seemingly much younger Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra).
En route there’s a bank holdup, a kidnapping, myriad chases and close calls, good and bad parents, manic cops, music montages, a wedding and about a million camera setups.
Despite a hard-working cast, a lush score, exotic location shooting and scattered warmth, “Barfi!” is ultimately more endurance test than entertainment.