One year and 198 stories ago, I reviewed 1953’s “City That Never Sleeps,” a cinematic world of crooked cops, gangster magicians, the handyman from “Newhart” and a character named, I kid you not, Little Stubby.
It was the single silliest, most ridiculous and just plain most daffy Chicago-based movie I had ever seen.
On Sunday, amid homemade Indian food, mango lassi, rosewater and some weird almond/saffron/milk thing, I witnessed the Chicago-filmed 2013 Bollywood debacle known as “Dhoom 3.”
The film — which I loved wholeheartedly, unironically and completely — was an exploration of odd, from the Inspector Gadget-y motorcycle/jet ski/two-motorcycles-linked-together-to-become-a-rocket to the romantistalking musical number apparently location scouted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
But between the two, which is daffier? Would the daffy crown go to lazily crooked cop Johnny Kelly or crookedly lazy cop Ali Akbar? Would the magician thief of record be Sahir Khan or Hayes Stewart? What is, in fact, the most ridiculous cinematic abomination to film on these sacred shores?
By the numbers, we at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons break it down.
Best IMBD description:
City: Johnny Kelly, who plans on resigning from the police force and leaving his wife the next day, has a very eventful last night on duty.
Dhoom: To avenge his father’s death, a circus entertainer trained in magic and acrobatics turns thief to take down a corrupt bank in Chicago. Two cops from Mumbai are assigned to the case.
Winner: “Dhoom 3,” although the IMBD description for “City” omits Greg the Mechanical Man, Angel Face the tap-dancing stripper, a magician-gangster played by the actor who kept losing court cases to Perry Mason and — please read this next bit several times — the living spirit of the City of Chicago becoming a cop with a Texas accent for the night.
Single greatest scene:
City: The magician-gangster placing a rabbit in a top hat and pulling out a gun.
Dhoom: Lower Wacker motorcycle fire-jousting.
Winner: “Dhoom 3,” if only because a Lower Wacker motorcycle chase scene is the least of what this movie ripped off from Christopher Nolan.
City: Wow, where to begin? There’s the police dispatcher blaring out addresses like “50th and Dearborn” and the intersection of “Superior and Huron streets, east of Hudson Avenue,” the not-the-Marquette-Building-but-totally-the-Marquette-Building shootout and the random Wrigley Building shot before the North Side ‘L’ electrocution foot chase.
Dhoom: Wow, where to stop? There’s the Lake Shore Drive bus that ends up at what might be Six Flags, the Quincy Blue Line stop, the out-of-business Indian Circus that’s clearly the Shedd Aquarium, the American (actually Australian) female Chicago cop’s palm-tree-laden beachfront apartment with the mountain view and the Chicago River jet ski chase that heads toward the locks before popping up in Chinatown and turning into a motorcycle/helicopter chase that winds through the North Side, apparently rural Idaho and finally the spot where Columbus Drive goes underneath the Aon Center. The effect of seeing my sacred local geography mangled for cinema’s sake was rather like being any European watching any film featuring James Bond, Jason Bourne or a Paris-based couple falling in rom-com love. (“Eh, why do all ze apartamentes in l’France have ze view of la Tour Eiffel?”)
Winner: “Dhoom 3,” mainly for the climactic scene at the Great Chicago Dam amid the beautiful Chicago Mountains.
Weirdest thing the entire plot hinges on:
City: The entire plot hinges on Little Stubby and the magician-gangster arguing over whether the man pretending to be a robot in a nightclub’s storefront window is an actual robot (in which case they’re fine) or an actor (in which case they have to kill him because of the murder he witnessed).
Dhoom: The entire plot hinges on whether the clown-thief recognizes the homeless man he’s been spending weekends with at Six Flags is a Mumbai cop who plays by nobody’s rules but his own.
Winner: “City That Never Sleeps.” Little Stubby!
A thing that must have been said while pitching the movie:
City: “Well, we can’t show her stripping, but we can have her throw clothes on-screen while we play audio of a tap dancer.”
Dhoom: “Oh come on. Who in Mumbai knows who Christopher Nolan even is?”
Winner: “City That Never Sleeps.”
City: “That’s the way a man is when he’s made of sawdust.” (Spoken by the Mechanical Man)
Dhoom: “They say never hurt a clown’s feelings.”
Winner: “Dhoom 3.” Because no one has ever said that, not even professional circus clowns who did not wish their feelings hurt.
Most annoying verbal trait:
Dhoom: All conversations — even conversations broadcast on Chicago’s apparently quite popular Asian news station — alternated sentences between Hindi and English.
City: Everyone pronounced “hood” like it rhymes with “dude.”
Winner: “City That Never Sleeps.” Say “hude” in a few sentences and tell me that’s not more annoying.
Best still that explains everything and nothing at the same time:
I would have watched an entire movie of:
Dhoom: Goofy cop sidekick/underground motorcycle racer Ali’s semi-racist musical romantic fantasies whenever he sees a woman.
City: Little Stubby!
Winner: “City That Never Sleeps.” I mean, come on. His name is Little Stubby.
The final tally:
By a vote of 5-4 with the tiebreaker being “I am terribly amused by the character name of ‘Little Stubby,’” the winner of 1,001 Chicago Afternoons’ 2016 Daffiest Chicago Movie award is… 1953′s “City That Never Sleeps.”
I would like to thank all the other candidates for quantifiably ridiculous film shot in Chicago, from 1896′s “The Tramp and The Dog” to whatever municipal service Dick Wolf will romanticize next (my bet is “Chicago Streets and San” starring Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti).
To close this story in the words of lazily crooked cop Johnny Kelly, who doesn’t yet understand all that the universe offers and who certainly doesn’t understand how cement mixers work, “I feel like I’m in a cement mixer being slowly chopped and pounded to death.”
Sure, that line doesn’t make sense here, but do you know where it fits? In the reigning champion ridiculous Chicago movie, “City That Never Sleeps!”