The cons are dull, the chemistry is off, the zingers are in short supply and a kitschy display of brand logos and hammy accents takes centre stage, sighs Sukanya Verma.
Yeh world hai na, world? There are two types of people in it.
One who makes the right movie at the right time and moves on and another who tries to cash in on the past in the present and falls on their face.
Back in 2005, when social media and small town stories of Bollywood had yet to become a thing, a pair of fanciful youngsters turned flashy into an attraction, almost an aesthetic through their humorous scams, cheerful interactions and flamboyant persona in Director Shaad Ali's colourful con caper.
Bunty Aur Babli's playful nonsense came alive in Jaideep Sahni's impish writing, Gulzar's wise and witty word play and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's zingy soundtrack.
And the leads did well living up to the mad momentum set by these visionaries -- Rani Mukerji at the peak of her most adventurous phase, Abhishek Bachchan settling in his own skin despite the towering presence of dad Amitabh Bachchan as the maverick cop hot on their trail. Not to forget Aishwarya Rai's trendsetting Kajra Re moves that is already part of the pop culture pantheon and a hoard of supporting stars imprinting Bunty Aur Babli's many cons and gags with lasting hilarity.
As much as I enjoyed this Aditya Chopra produced extravaganza, I wasn't holding my breath for a reunion. Can it be even called one in the absence of Abhishek?
On most days a better actor, Saif Ali Khan steps into Bachchan Junior's shoes and appears mighty awkward in a role (Sony LIV's excellent Web series) Gullak's Jameel Khan would deliver in his sleep.
Even the original's writer and director Shaad Ali smartly stays away as Varun V Sharma multi-tasks on this spectacularly blah sequel, which begins with a shot of obese, half naked men in trunks about to dive into a pool. They are victims of a scam planned by a pair of jobless computer engineers conning for kicks while raising funds to kick-start a novel food app.
New age Bunty Aur Babli 2, anyone?
Props and disguises, tricks and frauds, confidence and sweet talking, brains of Lupin, hearts of Robin Hood -- it's the same formula all over again.
Where does that leave the original Bunty and Babli?
One would have imagined a better fate for Rakesh (Saif Ali Khan) and Vimmi (Rani Mukerji), given ACP Dashrath's constant patronage and their assistance in matters of fraud. Instead, they are reduced to over-the-top freaks regaling Phursatganj locals with their unfunny antics and excessive usage of hair dye.
But when techno-savvy knockoffs (Siddhant Chaturvedi, Sharvari Wagh) swipe their prized B&B brand logo to advance their own career as celebrity swindlers, Rakesh and Vimmi decide to return from retirement. Or maybe they want to catch a break from raising their annoyingly smart-alecky son -- now that would be a truly rollicking drama.
Dashrath has long retired but, keeping up with its Ramayana fetish, another cop called Jatayu Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) enters the scene and ropes in the originals to nab the clones.
What ensues is a series of drab schemes and cat and mouse chase whose geographical movement is impossible to track across a jumbled ride from Goa to Gurugram to UP to Abu Dhabi.
It's all one big mess from here onwards.
The cons are dull, the chemistry is off, the zingers are in short supply and a kitschy display of brand logos and hammy accents takes centre stage.
Bunty Aur Babli 2 throws in a politically aware bone, unleashing soft gibes on all things from 'vikas' to 'swachh Bharat' while describing Twitter as 'social media ka khararnak dakiya'', but it's much too garbled to make any impact.
Between juvenile laughs, contrived messaging and finding lacklustre ways to doff its hat at the first one's familiarity, Bunty Aur Babli 2 is neither here nor there.
Even the definitive fashion -- remember the collared short kurtas worn by Rani that sold off like hot cakes? -- wove itself like a character into the movie but the sequel's showy styling is a major put off.
Sporting floral monstrosities from top to toe and Jaya Prada's 1980s hair, there's something calculated about Rani's loud Sikhni from UP portrayal. It's a complete caricature.
In comparison, the younger lot -- Siddhant and Sharvari -- appear far more natural and enjoy the material even in the absence of entertaining writing.
As does the ever reliable Pankaj Tripathi. But it's not a trick we've not seen before.
Nor is anything about this puerile, tiresome comedy.