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Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Movie Poster

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Albert Brooks
Starring: Albert Brooks, John Carroll Lynch, Sheetal Sheth, John Tenney, Fred Dalton Thompson, Amy Ryan
Released by: Warner Independent Pictures

In Short: Laughter may be the best medicine, but with his attempt to find comedy in the Muslim world, Albert Brooks leaves his audience in need of another dosage.

Sad Comedy

We'll Keep Looking
By Veronica Marian

Promising him the Medal of Freedom (“that’s the ‘nice’ one,” we are told), the United States government convinces out-of-work, middle aged Jewish actor Albert Brooks to spend a month in India and Pakistan, all expenses paid, in order to find out what makes Muslim people laugh. With his career stalled to the point where his wife encourages him to take a role in a sitcom produced by Al-Jazeera, Brooks takes on the challenge.

Stand-up comedian Al Brooks, who plays a fumbling, ignorant and completely self-involved version of himself (we only hope he isn’t like this at home), also wrote and directed the film. He does a decent job of poking fun at “the industry” and at American stereotypes, but despite its promising premise, the movie leaves us wanting more. Crass clichés may work for stand-up comedy, but in this full-length feature they're mostly lackluster. What’s more, in a movie that tries to encourage understanding of other cultures, typecasting seems a bit antithetical.

To find out what makes Muslim people laugh, Brooks, with the help of his two U.S. government chaperons and the beautiful Maya (Sheetal Sheth) put on a stand-up comedy show in New Delhi. After many mishaps (the dressing room is a tee-pee, the headliner has to introduce himself and the house lights don’t work), Brooks gives one of the saddest stand-up routines in the history of comedy. While Danny the dummy might have worked on the Ed Sullivan show (hard to imagine from watching this movie), Brooks definitely flops at his big Indian debut. We admire his refusal to accept that he stunk, and his increasing passion for this project which takes him on a clandestine detour into Pakistan. However, considering that Brooks is a pretty respected stand-up comedian, we expected more from his routine.

The film’s abrupt ending feels like Brooks pulled an all-nighter when he wrote the script, then realized class was in 20 minutes and tacked on a quick ending. Also, there are moments when we’re supposed to laugh at the ignorant American lost in New Delhi, but we just don’t buy it. How do you miss the Taj Mahal when you’re accompanied by a native Indian woman? We get it, it’s supposed to be funny, the silly American so caught up in his own self that he misses what other cultures have to offer. But it plays more like bad scriptwriting than accidental humor.

(Updated 01/21/08 NJ)

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