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Review: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

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posted on Jul, 24 2007 @ 12:40 PM

Review: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

This is another one of those "Whoops... wrong movie" experiences. I thought I was going to watch The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour and instead ended up with this tepid motion picture.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Comedy
PLATFORM: Color, Motion Picture
STARS: Albert Brooks, Sen. Fred Thompson, Sheetal Sheth
LOVE IT: People who thought About Schmidt was hilarious and Albert Brooks fans.
HATE IT: People who thought Billy Madison was funny, and Mel Brooks fans.
MUSIC: Quite good, really. A pity they don't sell the soundtrack.
WARNINGS: Drug use, language.
SCORE: 4/10
TEASER: Albert Brooks plays himself as an agent of the U.S. Government sent to India to find out what makes Muslims laugh.

The Full Review

This wasn't a movie. It was a mehvie. Everything about this movie, with the exception of the soundtrack, was "meh". I got the impression watching it that Albert Brooks was bored out of his skull, and even his self-depricating snipes at his own career only elicit a chuckle if you have any idea who he is. It wasn't until the third or fourth Finding Nemo reference that I even realized "Oh, yeah, he was that guy who did the voice of Marlin." Albert really needs to avoid writing and directing.

I know exactly who he was trying to appeal to: the high-brow humor crowd. The problem is that he fails miserably. There's a few points in the film where I chuckled, more out of pity than anything else, but I appreciated the message he was trying to convey. The problem is that the whole movie is so depressingly un-funny and dry that what finally elicited a chuckle here and there would have been a throwaway joke in any dry BBC sitcom. I kept waiting for the big funny, the ha-ha, the belly-laugh. Make with the funny, already! Alas, the movie ends before anything, including a hearty belly laugh, is accomplished.

I really only have two positive things to say about this movie:

  • The soundtrack was excellent. It captured the spirit of India quite well, and I'd buy it if anyone actually carried it. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's offered for sale.

  • Sheetal Sheth did a great job as Maya. It's hard to appreciate her potential because it means having to watch the movie to do so, but she's a good actress, and would be a welcome addition to any producer's cast list. She manages to capture the exotic beauty of a female Indian Hindu without crossing the line into stereotype. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her acting, and just wish she'd had a better director.

    The rest of the movie was as awkward as the premise.

    After Albert Brooks bombs a casting interview, the U.S. Government, in its War on Terrorism, offers him a chance to serve his country and earn The Medal of Freedom. His mission: to find out what makes Muslims laugh, and write a 500+ page report on it, which he is told up front that no one will ever read. To accomplish this, they send him to...India.

    Isn't that funny? They send him to India to study Muslims? Get it?

    The rest of the movie doesn't reach this level of comedy. Brooks fails miserably at every twist and turn to obtain the Indian "essence of humor." The single funniest joke of the movie is when, in front of an audience of 400 deadpan Indians whom have yet to laugh at a single joke, asks "I think there might be a bit of a language barrier. How many of you speak English?" and every single one raises their hand. The expressions on his face are pretty amusing at times as well, he has a very expressive face. Still, those three chuckle-worthy moments are not worth two hours of failed jokes, awkward delivery, and by the end of the movie, I disliked Brooks even more than when it started, and considering he starts off the movie a loser, that's saying something.

    The cinematography wasn't even documentary-worthy. In fact, I've seen better camera-work in Antiques Roadshow. Everything else about the movie was just so "meh" I can't even be bothered to form an opinion about it. Skip this movie, unless you just really want to see Sheetal Sheth's pretty face, or want some exposure to a few cool Indy remixes... or if you thought About Schmidt was the pinnacle of brilliance.

    The final rating I give the movie is 4/10, two points for the soundtrack, one point for Sheth, and one point to represent the combined other qualities of the movie.

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