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Lunchbox’ harks back to ’30s Hollywood

POSTED: July 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Sony Classics/

In the Indian film "The Lunchbox," Irrfan Khan receives a misdelivered meal at work, which begins a correspondence that may remind you of "The Shop Around the Corner."

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A light romantic comedy from India leads this week’s movies on Blu-ray and DVD.

“The Lunchbox” (Sony Classics/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, PG, in English and in Hindi with English subtitles, featurette). This light romantic comedy from India, set in bustling Mumbi, resembles a Hollywood studio film of the 1930s and ’40s, which may not be unintentional since the plot seems to riff on Ernst Lubitsch’s classic “The Shop Around the Corner” (updated in the 1990s as “You’ve Got Mail”).

That plot hinges on the Indian cultural phenomenon of “dabbawalas,” which resemble Manhattan’s bicycle messengers, in this case daily deliverers of metal boxes containing hot lunches from wives to their working husbands. One such lunch, prepared by Ila (Nimrat Kaur) for her cheating husband, is, for reasons left unexplained, delivered to the wrong person — grumpy, widowed, about-to-retire paper-pusher Saajan (Irrfan Khan).

When she realizes the error, Ila sends another lunch with a note. Saajan responds, but complains about the food. Ila takes this as a challenge and thus begins an unlikely but nonetheless delightful relationship between two people who’ve never met, but whose correspondence, which becomes more and more personal, will have a positive, life-affirming effect on both parties.

Wonderfully warm and touching, with a deft, gentle and never overly sentimental directing touch by first-time feature filmmaker Ritesh Batra, the film is buoyed by moving performances from the stars. (Khan may be familiar if you’ve seen “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Life of Pi” or “The Amazing Spider-Man.”)

“Owning Mahoney” (Sony Classics/DVD, 2003, R for language and sex). The late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s excellent performance drives this Canadian film about a Toronto banker whose gambling addiction catches up with him after he begins skimming from funds at work. Co-stars include Minnie Driver and John Hurt. Based on a true story.

“Vinyl” (Shout!/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, not rated). British punk-rock musical loosely based on a true story (involving the Alarm) is a predictable feel-good yarn about aging band mates that come up with a sure-fire hit song but can’t get it produced because the music industry thinks they’re too old. So they hire youngsters, train them in the art of punk music and have them lip-sync their tune.

“Once Upon a Time in Vietnam” (Lionsgate/DVD, 2014, R for violence and sex, featurette, in Vietnamese with English subtitles, trailers). Dustin Nguyen, best known as a cast member of the original “21 Jump Street” TV series, wrote, directed and stars in this genre-bending martial-arts epic as a “Kung Fu”-like drifter/warrior who cleans up a town. Owes much to old-school American Westerns.

“No Vacancy” (Lionsgate/DVD, 2014; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; trailers). A car carrying seven vacationers on their way to Las Vegas breaks down at a remote hotel. When they check in to stay the night, someone begins torturing and killing them one by one until they pull together to ward off their attacker.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com

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