The good: the parts of it that are funny are very funny, and the parts of it that are fun are very fun.
I'm going to let that sentence stand alone, because usually laughing and enjoying myself are what I want in a movie, and having those needs met in an interesting way is no small thing.
More on those parts: some of them are simple bits of snappy dialogue, some are courtesy of apt delivery, and some are visual (costumes, dance moves, details of the sets). You'll need to be quick to get all of the movie references, and it will be a very happy day when I get my hands on the DVD and park myself in front of the tv for hours to seek them out. (Someone should start a list at some centralized location where viewers all over can add what they find.) A few of my favorite funny bits: Shahrukh wearing what Jerry Seinfeld would call a puffy shirt; Shahrukh doing a Rajnikanth-style action sequence dressed as a cowboy in red (p)leather; everything Abhishek did at the Filmfare awards; a fake-pretend movie starring Akshay Kumar aping a European youtube video that apes Rajnikanth*; and fake-pretend movies called Phir Bhi Dil Hai NRI and Main Bhi Hoon Na starring Shahrukh spoofing his own work (and maybe even "Woh Ladki Hai Kahan" from Dil Chahta Hai, which of course itself plays off of...oh never mind).
The layers of making fun - and having fun - are many. And fantastic. Self-referential humor, when done with real understanding and affection, goes a long way with me, and when she's on task Farah is really good at it. The simply joyful scenes and touches are also wonderful, especially 1970s Om's heartfelt love of movies and unselfconscious emotion with his mother, friend, and dreamy girl (that's the character's, not Shahrukh's, please note). "Deewangi Deewangi" does not disappoint, and I had a blast hooting and hollering for Rani, Mithun, and Saif. In our theater, Salman got the most audience reaction, with Kajol and Mithun close behind. I'm interested to know how the celebrity cameos in that song and in the Filmfare awards scene were chosen - whither Aishwarya, for example? The stars are used to great effect, glittering around and saying funny things, which is one reason I like them in the first place. They are used with a perfectly light touch, allowed to do their thing for a few moments, and then they're gone - which is great, because at its strongest the movie is about their total effect on people, the joys and sorrows of the world they create, not about them as themselves.
Shahrukh is perfect for the role - of course - and even in the script's weak moments he is a joy to watch. A Shahrukhy joy, but for those of us who like him, that's a wonderful thing. There are so many styles of superstar bandied about that it's hard to imagine anyone else could have done it. Say what you will about the man, he sure seems comfortable in his (sometimes gold-dusted) skin and more than willing to joke about himself and those who made him famous, both colleagues and fans. Surely he had a good time making this movie, and that buoyant cheerfulness and cheek alone are enough for me to put up with the ridiculously dramatic moments and drawn-out ending. Shreyas Talpade is also excellent - and again "of course" should be added - and I like him very much as sweet, smart characters like Pappu.
Those ridiculously dramatic moments and the drawn-out ending are where the enh comes in. The earnestly filmi parts of the movie aren't handled right. I have no problem at all with earnestly filmi movie-making, but it needs to be done with a respectful, careful, interesting, or some kind of distinctive touch - and Om Shanti Om is inconsistent in this important area. Chestuts need something to make them special, and surely that was possible with the resources available for this movie. This problem was felt most in the revengey bits, which were mostly lazily straight-up and on far too long. They were, I'm sad to say, boring. I don't know how Farah managed to make them boring, but she did. It's like the things that didn't quite work in Main Hoon Na have been exaggerated. There were times when I wanted to pause the movie and say "Oh Farah. Seriously?" - but I think she would have answered, eyes wide, "Yes, absolutely." Shahrukh also overindulged in expressions and voices that oozed "I have a veeeeery secret plan. It is a symphony of comeuppance! Mwa ha ha!" It's an interesting trick, letting the hero get to be more menacing than the actual villain; it's in keeping with the plot but would have been more satisfying if the lines and actor had been kept in check.
And as for distressing, if a respected, powerful industry figure like Farah Khan won't make sure there are good roles for women in her movies, then who will? Shanti and Sandy have so little to do. Karisma's and Preity's cameo lines are more interesting. Poor Deepika. All I feel I can say about her is that she seems to be tall and that discovering that she works for Maybelline makes one scenee make a lot more sense. [spoilers ahead for the next ten lines or so] Forgive a little detour here for a minute. At least Sandy isn't swept into a happy romantic bow at the end - it wouldn't have fit the characters at all, especially because Sandy hardly shows a personality to love, and I'm glad Farah didn't take the sappy way out. And as other writers have pointed out, Deepika is literally half Shahrukh's age, and that's just ew. I'm glad the dreams that need more than one lifetime, or whatever the tag line is, are Om's stardom and Shanti's justice, not the romance of people who look like the couple in the unrequited romance from the 70s. Om and Shanti have a friendship, not a romance. So as slight as Sandy is, at least she's not just a romantic default. [spoilers over] Kirron Kher is great at the sort of role she has here, but why not give her something more challenging to do? She can handle it, I'm sure. And a far less important problem: in a movie with expansive sets and costumes and the massive tie-in of a cosmetics company, why is the age makeup shoddy? Kirron, Shreyas, and Arjun Rampal are all badly done in the present-day segments.
Farah Khan makes such fun movies, with such affection for and good humor about movies and stars and audiences, that I can happily forgive the film's problems. Main Hoon Na had set my bar really, really high, and while parts of Om Shanti Om sailed over it easily its total effect disappointed me. But not by much, and I had to remind myself that my expectations were unrealistic. (When will I learn?) If you could see my hands while I say this, you'd see that being disappointed by Om Shanti Om isn't nearly as bad as it sounds - most movies are down here [gestures a few feet off the ground] but Main Hoon Na was up here [gestures above head], so when Om Shanti Om came in about here [waves hand somewhere in bewteen], even though it didn't live up to its potential, it wasn't bad at all. I just hope next time - and pleeeeease let there be a next time - there is just as much joy but everything is tighter and more thought out. I can imagine that's not easy to do, but I have faith. In the meantime, though, I am remain delighted by the finest moments of Om Shanti Om and (95% of Main Hoon Na).
Many thanks and giggles to Aspi and his family for being my movie-going companions and providers of yummy pre- and post-film snacks. In his fine review, he hits on such important points as the mistake of casting Arjun Rampal, Farah's adept handling of the spooky, and the tragically inescapable Curse of the Second Half. I also like Ultrabrown's discussions.
* At least, that's where I know that segment - perhaps Akshay's movie in Om Shanti Om and "American Rajnikanth" (which is obviously not American, but whatever) are both parodies of a real Rajnikanth (or actor who stars in similar action sequences) scene.