Inspired by The Hangover, the new Indian Netflix movie fails its title and attempted genre.

Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic, who saw Wild Wild Punjab in 4K Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos. He has been reviewing Netflix originals since 2015 and has written for NDTV and SlashFilm.

Wild Wild Punjab Netflix Manjot Singh Jassie Gill Sunny Singh Varun Sharma
Manjot Singh, Jassie Gill, Sunny Singh, and Varun Sharma in Wild Wild Punjab // Photo: Kaustub Kamble/Netflix

Early into Wild Wild Punjab—the new Indian Netflix original movie—a line of dialogue lays bare the film’s inspiration: The Hangover trilogy. It’s not implied, mind you. One of the film’s four lead characters namechecks the high-grossing franchise as a comedic reference. Except Wild Wild Punjab doesn’t stop at acknowledging its existence. It liberally borrows several subplots from The Hangover, including stealing a police vehicle, being chased by gangsters, and drunkenly marrying a random woman. But Wild Wild Punjab—directed by feature debutant Simarpreet Singh and written by Harman Wadala and Sandeep Jain—displays zero understanding of good comedic filmmaking.

Wild Wild Punjab is, in fact, quite tame

The stale jokes fall flat or punch down. The funny escapades are deeply unfunny. And though it’s crammed full of “happenings”, Wild Wild Punjab is uneventful and uninteresting. It’s billed as a road trip movie, but it’s chock full of detours that last for several hours or the entire night. (It also seems to have been reshaped in post-production with tacky CGI animation stitching together multiple scenes.)

On top of that, it’s been made with an eye for the big screen. That explains the meaningless song and dance sequences, which fulfil the twin commercial prospect that is Bollywood. That explains why everyone largely talks in Hindi despite the film following locals in Punjab. And it also explains why the movie is overall quite tame. There’s nothing truly wild in Wild Wild Punjab. Even Netflix agrees given it has self-certified the film as U/A in India.

That might also explain its moralistic lean. While its characters have no problems drinking and driving, belittling women, and virtually everything else under the sun, they swear off drugs. I’m sure that would’ve pleased India’s film certification board which routinely behaves like moral police. But even after trying its hardest to land a theatrical release, Wild Wild Punjab has been dumped on streaming. For commercial reasons no less. And it’s meant solely for the crowd who’s represented here and find their behaviour funny. Netflix must have wanted a title that it could serve to its Indian male subscriber crowd on a Friday night when they have a large drink in their hands. And now, it has that.

The Patiala Wolfpack of Wild Wild Punjab

The Patiala Wolfpack of Wild Wild Punjab is made up of four twentysomething guys. A good-for-nothing Maan “Arore” Arora (Sunny Singh) is still in college and tries to bed every woman he lays his eyes on. The meek Gaurav “Jainu” Jain (Jassie Gill) whose father (Gopal Datt) beat him so much as a child that he can’t say a word in front of him. A heartbroken lover, Rajesh “Khanne” Khanna (Varun Sharma), whose girlfriend of years cheated on him with their boss. That leaves dead daddy’s boy, Honey “Honey Paaji” Singh (Manjot Singh), who loves his car Paro more than his wife. Paro is the car’s name, not the make and model. (No, there are no Devdas parallels here beyond that.)

At the start of Wild Wild Punjab, Khanna is about to take his own life after he learns that his girlfriend is marrying said boss. As Arora and Jain debate the best way to do it—yes, this is a movie that makes light of suicide—Singh has a better idea. (These early scenes are so weirdly structured and put together that it feels like the characters—who are close friends—don’t know each other when they first come together on screen.) He tells Khanna that they should go to her wedding in Pathankot, where Khanna can tell her, in person, that he’s over her. “I’m over you” is the resounding siren call of the new Netflix film. Except, of course, Khanna is the farthest thing from being over her.

Wild Wild Punjab is devoid of fun

Regardless, imbued with false courage and mighty hopes, the quartet set for a three-hour drive to Pathankot. As you would expect from a film of this nature, there are several delays and shenanigans along the way. It adds new characters as well, chiefly a newlywed woman called Radha (Patralekhaa) and a college-going drug smuggler called Meera (Ishita Raj), who are opposites in most ways. But no matter what turns it takes, the Netflix movie is devoid of fun. Wild Wild Punjab is unable to juice out thrills from even the most basic ingredients, be it a car chase, a panicky shootout, or getting stuck on a railway track. It also suffers from a lack of imagination, pushing its characters into repeat situations just minutes apart.

Elsewhere, it deals in tried tropes or 2000s humour. In one scene, Singh asks his wife to move back lest she scratches his car. In another, Wild Wild Punjab implies that Khanna’s girlfriend might have cheated on him because Khanna wasn’t willing to give away his coffee. And in a third, when a woman faints, a male character wonders if she’s pregnant—less than 24 hours after she’s implied to have slept with someone. In the world of the Netflix movie, women are either the butt of jokes, have wronged men, or about to do some wrong. It also wields an unestablished agenda against vegetarians. Did the explanation get cut or was it never written?

An insufferable mimicry of The Hangover

Worse, Wild Wild Punjab doesn’t know how to be consistent. It upsets the jokey and frivolous tonality by introducing sincerity out of nowhere. The two extremes do not gel. It also makes it harder to accept the nonsense it throws at you, for the entire movie isn’t on the same wavelength. Characters don’t also behave consistently, either forgetting their traits or showcasing unjustified growth.

Luv Ranjan—the film’s producer who also gets story credit—has wanted to make Wild Wild Punjab for nearly a decade. But he apparently delayed it because of Udta Punjab, a film that shares virtually no similarities with this one except the name of the northern Indian state in its title. The Netflix movie’s title feels like a misnomer, in fact. But more importantly, Wild Wild Punjab hasn’t grown past its inspiration despite all that time. It’s an insufferable mimicry.

Wild Wild Punjab released on Wednesday, July 10 on Netflix worldwide.

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