The bestseller film adaptation had to use the title of its original THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR WHO WAS STUCK IN A WARDROBE change. We reveal more decisive arguments for or against Ken Scott’s feel-good comedy in our review.
The Plot Summary
The young Ajatashatru Lavash Patel (Dhanush) grew up in poor conditions in Mumbai. Although he has made a living since he was a child by ripping off tourists, the Indian man commonly called Aja is a friendly, optimistic, cheerful person who, together with his mother, dreams of one day flying to Paris. When at least Aja finally fulfills this goal, he meets the American Marie (Erin Moriarty) in the city of love, whom he immediately sets his eyes on. The two start talking and make an appointment for the next day. But the meeting is canceled. Because Aja ends up in a wardrobe in a furniture store that is shipped to England. And getting back to Paris from there turns out to be extremely difficult. A journey begins during which Aja gets to know stubborn people and becomes involved in their problems…
Movie explanation of the ending
Connoisseurs of the bestseller “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in an Ikea Cupboard” will undoubtedly be disappointed by director Ken Scott’s screen adaptation in one respect: the memorable title of the best-selling book written by Romain Puértolas is simply changed in the film. Since the Swedish furniture giant has not given its consent, the comedy film entitled “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” has to be submitted. As a result, the material loses some of its playfulness of bringing the world closer together – the Far East and the Near North, romanticized mysticism and globalized furniture commerce. And Ikea is not seen in the film itself, although Scott makes a real effort to film around the lack of a partnership with the large corporation. In Paris, Aja visits a furniture store with a blue and yellow exterior whose sales areas look exactly like those at Ikea. But the brand logo is never seen, the name of the furniture store is never mentioned. Scott is relying on the audience to automatically fill in the “information gaps” with Ikea. He is likely to succeed: Scott’s directorial naturalness should lead some viewers to be firmly convinced after going to the cinema that the Swedish furniture giant appears extensively in this comedy. For fans of the book, however, such a deviation between the original and the film is of course an affront.
Nelly (Bérénice Bejo) is irritated by her admirer.
But seriously, it’s a good thing that “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” retains the fascination with Ikea that Aja feels in the novel, even if the company doesn’t explicitly appear in the film. The glowing enthusiasm that young Aja feels when he memorizes a furniture catalog and dreams of a life in a Swedish mass-production facility makes Aja’s euphoric personality entertainingly clear. In addition, the gap between Western Europe, where Ikea is everyday life for many, and India, where it is an unrealistic luxury dream for millions of people, is clearly outlined. Scott handles such situations well: he shows Aja’s optimism with nimble ease, and his getting-to-know-you prank in an Ikea in Paris, playing exhausted middle-class everyday life in the showrooms, is also effortlessly funny. Scott also succeeds in casual gags in his garishly overexposed world travel film: when, for example, a gangster and a policeman greet each other in a friendly dozen in Italy, or the Parisian taxi driver Gustave (Gérard Jugnot) rips off tourists with a loving great-uncle smile, this is anything but subtle humor. But the mixture of quick timing and self-evident triviality makes these and similar punchlines in “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” still sit. But when it comes to complete set pieces, this comedy often becomes very laborious.
In Romain Puértolas’ screenplay adaptation of his own novel, which he wrote with Luc Bossi, Jon Goldman and Ken Scott, various situations are often presented in detail and with great effort, which enormously inhibits their comedic potential. The low point of the film is probably the intermediate stage in which Aja meets the actress Nelly (“The Artist” supporting actress Bérénice Bejo), who is bored with her fame. Introduced as an arrogant beast, she suddenly not only becomes tame, but also an extremely zealous supporter of Aja. Bejo doesn’t manage to give the role, which is written completely without identity, a consistent personality and the little dramas and gags surrounding Nelly’s love and professional life are simply narrative ballast given the stale characterization and clichéd development. The majority of the film is in a similar vein to “Hector’s Journey or the Search for Happiness” and comparable films: culture clash jokes alternate with large and small moral lessons. Unlike Peter Chelsom’s trip around the world by Hector, played by Simon Pegg, which is presented in strong images that fill the screen, “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” strings together his insights and messages at random. Where “Hector’s Journey” consistently works towards a narrative goal and a conclusion that unifies all stages, “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Was Stuck in a Wardrobe” hits random hooks – from “Sharing is more fulfilling than keeping” to “Don’t give up on love “ to “See with your heart, not your eyes” and “Europe’s authorities treat refugees badly”.
For these two, life in poverty is just an Indian adventure
And even if the inclusion of the refugee issue is completely mindless and the film severely trivializes the suffering of those who want to start a new life in Europe, this storyline at least gives “Captain Phillips” star Barkhad Abdi the chance to be the semi-official leader of a group of refugees to surprise with dry sayings. Erin Moriarty is also likeable as Aja’s chance acquaintance and love at first sight. The “Captain Fantastic” actress has a convincing chemistry with the main actor Dhanush and, in her few minutes of the film, finds a way to save her role from the radical stereotyping that threatens her at the script level (especially in the third act) thanks to doubtful eye looks and level-headed facial expressions. Last but not least, Dhanush, who is an absolute superstar in his homeland, does well in his English-language debut, convincing in both the silly, exaggerated moments and the quieter moments. The sequences in which fortune cookie sayings are conveyed as life-changing insights come with the finesse of a furniture delivery truck, but thanks to Dhanush’s charisma, the shame factor remains low: Apart from a completely exaggerated musical sequence that comes out of nowhere, “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir, the “stuck in a closet” is close to Aja’s sweet, good-natured disposition – and so, despite all the slapstick and motivational poster noise, the spark jumps again and again, scene by scene.
Conclusion: The best-selling film adaptation “The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” adds a tried-and-tested representative to the trend of feel-good travel comedies based on literary inspiration: colorful, emphatically good-humored and with big messages about life, love and the worldly With each other – as well as with stale characters and forced lessons.
“The Incredible Journey of the Fakir Who Stuck in a Wardrobe” can be seen in many USA cinemas from November 29, 2018.