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REVIEW: My Name Is Khan

Rain Main, Forrest Gump and Being There mixed into a big Bollywood bowl


My Name Is Khan.
Courtesy photo

I Google women.

Okay, wait. Let me clarify that.

I’m not someone that uses the computer to look for naked women in any capacity or uses Google search for anything perverted.

My stepdad uses Google to find out about an old Mustang he’s doing engine work on or some fact about the Civil War he isn’t sure about. Me? I Google women, wondering why they aren’t more famous.

The first time was when I saw Cocoon on HBO 10 years ago. I wondered who the gorgeous alien woman was. I found out she was Tahnee Welch, the daughter of former San Diegan Raquel Welch.

A year after that, a friend let me borrow Say Anything. It was the one '80s movie I had never seen. It wasn’t as good as any of the John Hughes films, but was a decent effort from Cameron Crowe. The actress in that caught my eye. I Googled and found out she was Ione Skye, daughter of '60s folk singer Donovan.

Now, I don’t Google to see photos of them. That’s just one of the perks. I’m more curious as to how they didn’t parlay a nice role in a film into a movie career.

Rarely do I Google actresses in current films. I figure if they have any talent, I’ll be seeing them in more roles and various talk shows.

But when I saw My Name Is Khan the other night at the Gaslamp Theater, I had to see who the Indian actress was. She was just so adorable on screen.

Her name is Kajol Devgan and has made a big career in Bollywood films. I think some of those films hurt her character in Khan because, at times, she seemed a bit too cartoonish in what was a very serious picture. There were times she’d be loud, and it was as if she was acting in a completely different film.

The movie started out with such a powerful scene.

We see a Middle Eastern man checking a computer to see President Bush’s travel plans. He then acts weird at the airport, which gets him detained and searched. After security goes through his bag and questions him, we see them looking at an “autism alert” card he is carrying.

It's a great scene that should have ended there, instead, we have to listen as security insults him. I found that hard to believe (although it sets up an obvious joke that comes later in the movie).

The actor playing Khan (whose real name is Shahrukh Khan), was flat out amazing. It’s a shame the script wasn’t up to his caliber of acting.

I so wanted to love this movie. It has its heart in the right place.

You feel like you’re watching a Bollywood Rain Man. At the hour and a half mark, you feel like it’s more of a Bollywood Forrest Gump. No, wait. Kajol teaches him he can be less afraid of new things if he videos everything. It’s now a Bollywood Being There, with a bit of Network thrown in (I only say that because of the catch phrase, “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!” In this, it’s “My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.” It breaks your heart every time Khan is forced to utter it.

In some movies, I balk at the romances that pop up. In As Good as it Gets, it wasn’t the age difference between Nicholson and Helen Hunt that bothered me as much as the fact that he was such a jerk to her. I didn’t see her ever coming around to liking him.

In this romance, it’s the fact that Khan is autistic. Sure, he’s high functioning, but one that she can’t have normal conversations with. A guy she can never hug or touch. Yet she decides he’s great with her son and would be a good father (which he is). Sorry, it’s just way too much of a stretch.

The film stopped abruptly in the middle with the word “intermission” on the screen. I haven’t seen a movie with an intermission in 20 years.

After 30 minutes of various ads for local Middle Eastern and Indian businesses, my friend went to ask when the intermission would end. They weren’t sure why it was that long and started the movie a minute later.

The film goes back and forth between a time right after 9/11 and how this autistic Muslim man deals with the stereotypes. There are other dramas, including a thinly veiled Hurricane Katrina-like storm that thrashes a poor town in Georgia.

And as we watch Khan traveling across the country in search of the President, you go between rooting for him to reach his goal and hating his wife for kicking him out.

Scenes that are done so well always blow it at the end.

One of those scenes involves a hotel owned by a Muslim man who has befriended Khan. Some rednecks throw a brick into the window and, instead of an interesting reaction from the owner, we get gun shots at a truck, followed by a long rant about bigotry that doesn’t really work.

This movie should’ve been cut by an hour and tried not to be the epic picture it was shooting for.

That being said, as disappointed as I was, many elements of the movie stayed with me.

There was a scene where Khan pays $500 to have lunch with the President, only to be told he couldn’t attend because it was for Christian groups. It was a fundraiser for poor people in Africa, and as Khan disappointingly walks away, the woman tries to hand the money back. He says, “Keep it. Give it to the poor children there that aren’t Christian.”

And, of course, there’s the beautiful Kajol Devgan.

But then, you can save your $11 and just do what I did -- Google her.