A remake of Tamil film Kanchana (2011) directed by Raghava Lawrence, Laxmii stars Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani in the lead roles and is directed by Lawrence himself. Attempting a remake of your own film can be a really daunting task, and full marks to the director for taking this risk, but sadly, he hasn't been able to recreate the magic of his original. It's rare for lightning to strike twice, anyway.
Watch the trailer of Laxmii here
Given the kind of buzz that the film had been generating, mostly around Kumar's transgender character, Laxmii had set a high benchmark. Was it crossed? Not entirely. Or maybe not as successfully as you would have liked. And with an actor of Akshay's calibre, the film should've been a lot better.
Laxmii starts with Asif (Kumar) trying to eradicate the superstitions around ghosts, by offering scientific explanations for 'supernatural' events. But later, when this logical man eventually gives in to one such situation himself, you're left confused, and even worse, the story doesn't even establish what makes him change his stance so drastically. That's where the film starts to lose its plot. It makes you ask yourself what the film is trying to say. Is it telling us to not believe in superstitions or is it reinstating them? There's a lack of consistency to the characters and the plot.
There are also several in-your-face religious innuendos throughout the film. For instance, Asif is in an interfaith marriage with Rashami (Advani). The two look after Asif's nephew, whose parents died in an accident. In retrospect, you wonder why the child had to be an orphan, and not Asif and Rashami's own. Most of the first half is devoted to Asif trying to fit in with Rashami's family and win over her father (played by Rajesh Sharma), leading to a lot of family comedy, reminding you of Kumar's Bhool Bhulaiyaa -- although this time around, the humour is stale, and at most places, forced.
The film has no business calling itself a horror-comedy. Neither is it particularly funny, nor is it all that scary. Lawrence might as well have called it a drama. Talking of comedy, it's of such poor quality that you crave for some genuine laughs. As a matter of fact, the expressions of supporting characters, including Advani' sister-in-law played by Ashwini Kalsekar; her mother, played by Ayesha Raza Mishra; and her brother, played by Manu Rishi Chadha, add a tinge of wit and humour. Stealing the show in a 20-minute cameo is Sharad Kelkar.
The second half does pick up when the tone shifts to revenge drama. But again, to attract attention, the violence is made to look excessively gory. Even the antagonist and the plot around him turns out to be quite dull.
There's very little evidence to support the film's claims of being empowering to the trans community, other than maybe a few scenes where we see a transgender woman giving a speech up on the stage and sharing her plight. Though even that, to an extent, looked superficial.
The last 40-minutes, however, somewhat make up for the shortcomings. Kumar's intense moves and the comfort with which he plays such an unusual character is commendable. Though his performance isn't enough to salvage the film.
In terms of performances, while Kumar is in full form and dependably strong, the portions in which he plays the transgender character are more impactful than his regular self. He's quite convincing as a trans person, especially when the story highlights the neglect that the community has faced. But the film rushes through these scenes, without allowing the audience time to connect.
Advani looks gorgeous on screen and supports Kumar's character pretty well, without ever going overboard. She's particularly stunning in the Burj Khalifa song-and-dance number.
Talking of the music, it's quite rare for an Akshay Kumar film to go wrong, but Laxmii doesn't really impress in this department. The songs aren't bad, but they aren't seamless either. Burj Khalifa, with its spectacle, is refreshing, while Bam Bam Bholle, with its hundreds of trans extras dancing alongside Kumar gives you goosebumps.
All in all, Laxmii is a large-scale film that definitely would have invited whistles and claps in single screen theatres, but watching it on your devices, it's just about passable. More critical audiences, however, might find it slightly problematic.