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Let me begin by saying that this posting will actually be about the
movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World." It will NOT be an
off-topic ranting about religion, politics or social consciousness. If
such topics interest you, you'll find a ridiculous number of postings
to this site that express personal opinions and fears, but which have
very little to do with this movie.
Kudos to both Mr. Brooks and to Warner Independent for not shying away from what Sony believes is a controversial title. The title itself is part of the joke and helps to set up the movie as a comedy with a hopeless goal - one that the viewer and Mr. Brooks quickly recognize as futile, but which makes the pursuit that much more amusing to watch.
The film humorously explores the ignorance, naiveté and general stereotypes that many westerners have of the middle eastern world and of Muslims, and it does so in such an apologetic and deprecating manner that viewers can't help but laugh at themselves and the often ridiculous beliefs we have about other cultures. Let's face it, as Americans, we're sadly ignorant of most eastern cultures and if given a choice between feeling bad about it or mocking it, I'll take the latter.
Simply put, Brooks has put together a wonderfully funny satire that's some of his best work to date. Jokes about Halloween "Ghandi", explosives training, stoning rituals, Jews and corporate outsourcing all delivered in pure Brooksian style contribute to a very smart and clever film that Brooks aficionados will appreciate very much.
Albert Brooks' films are an acquired taste. That said, his new film,
"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World", offers an unforgettable trip
to some exotic locations in search of laughter, which is something Mr.
Brooks does best. The point of his film seems to be that by laughing
during difficult situations will unite people instead of separating
This is a film that has a lot of laughs in the way Albert Brooks throws his one liners and makes a satire of the idiocy of the assignment he has been given by those innovative guys in our government. Along the way, Mr. Brooks points out at how other cultures, India, in this case, has managed to become an integral part of ours in the way most American companies have outsourced jobs to that country. That becomes evident when we get to listen what is being said by the telephone people that work in the same building where they have found an office for the comedian. Even the White House phones seem to be answered by Indian operators!
This film is obviously not for everyone. Mr. Brooks' fans will have a field day watching this unassuming comic genius going through India and Pakistan in search of fun, but alas, what's funny for us it's not for other people. One of the funniest moments shows how a worried Brooks misses the magnificent Taj Mahal because he is too preoccupied with the job he has been given.
Of course, Albert Brooks is the best interpreter of himself. He has a style that is not obnoxious, or in your face. His presence in the film playing himself strikes the right note. Sheetal Sheth is a revelation as Maya, the eager Indian assistance who can't get Mr. Brooks' jokes however hard she tries. John Carroll Lynch and Jon Tunney are seen as Stewart and Mark, two men appointed to help Brooks perform his assignment. Penny Marshall appears at the beginning of the film as herself.
The film will reward the viewer going with an open mind to see the film because Albert Brooks is a funny man with the heart in the right place.
I really enjoyed this Albert Brooks film. I especially label it an
"Albert Brooks film" because he's so different and his humor so
different that if you don't know what you are in for, you can be very
disappointed. He is somewhat unique in that his humor is low-key,
deadpan-delivery and full of sarcasm.
I love his sarcasm, so the guy makes me laugh. Many others watch a film like this and say, "What's funny? This is not a comedy; it stinks." Since I am familiar with Brooks' style and laugh at his delivery and self-deprecating and insulting humor, I knew what I was in for with this film. However, I knew this could be a "bomb," too, like a few other of his films....but it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise: it was far better than I anticipated.
Brooks plays himself in the film and pokes fun not only at himself and his non-famous career but also at government bureaucracy. In this film he is an over-the-hill unemployed comedian who is asked to help our country, the United States, with Muslim relations by finding out what makes Muslims laugh. By making people laugh more, perhaps it would ease tensions.
Brooks is told he will receive the Medal Of Freedom for his efforts, which include a 500-page report on his findings! He isn't thrilled about that last part, but he does have a good attitude about his scheduled month-long trip to India and Pakistan.
Without giving anything away, I thought that what happened on this trip was very funny. Brooks - and the reaction of people around him - just cracked me up. It also was a pleasure to enjoy the supporting cast, led by a very likable, attractive Indian actress by the name of Sheetal Sheth.
Overall, highly recommended but know who Brooks is and what he's about, or you'll be disappointed.
Albert Brooks is sent by the US government to India on a mission to
find out what makes muslims laugh. Why India? Yes there's a lot of
muslims there but most of the people Brooks meet seems to be Hindus. No
matter what they are they don't think he's funny. And he isn't. Not in
Initially, most of the jokes are based on how badly planned his trip was. He gets to fly business class instead of first class. Nobody comes to pick him up at the airport so he has to take a cab. His office is small and has no computer, etc. Funny? After that, there is a slightly amusing scene where he has a conversation with his secretary, Maya, and they don't know when the other is joking or not. "Was that a joke?". According to his plans, he was supposed to go to Pakistan, but he doesn't get a visa, so he has to cross the border illegally in order to spend a couple of hours there with some would be comedians. This makes Indian and Pakistani intelligence agents suspicious, and there's almost a political conflict. Brooks realises he has failed and goes is sent back to the US. The End. His wife, unaware of his failure, thinks he's a big hero. The political subplot about the conflict Brooks almost caused, is tied up by means of on-screen text before the closing credits. The main plot also goes nowhere. I'm not sure what Brooks tried to do with this movie. It's not laugh-out-loud funny, and it doesn't work as a dark comedy nor as a satire. Unfortunately, with this movie, real-life Brooks ends up like on-screen Brooks: trying, but failing, to be funny. "Is that the joke?". I'll never know.
So what we have here is a movie with no real laughs and a premise that could be funny, but goes nowhere. Too bad, really, because I expected this movie to be much better. Not recommended to waste money on.
A previous reviewer implied that this film was a "thinking man's
comedy," but I fail to see where the thought provocation is in this
one. I've always considered Al Brooks to be a hit or miss comedian. His
Woody Allen-esquire neurosis and laid back delivery work great in some
movies but fail miserably in others. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim
World unfortunately fails to hit the target and is ranked among Brooks'
The plot is original (which, in itself deserves merit these days), basically showing Brooks playing himself and recruited by the US government to travel to India to write a report on what Muslims find funny. Assigned to a small office next to an Indian telemarketing/help desk boiler room, he ventures out repeatedly to interview pedestrians and promote a comedy show which he and an assistant hope will generate material for his report.
The film is segmented into a few phases which all sort of fall short of funny. The set-up led me to believe that a very funny movie were in store, but as the story continued and the characters arrived in India, the movie began to drag. A few chuckles could be had by the observant viewer but I wouldn't expect any gut-busters. The humor kind of borders observational and situational, but mostly I found the jokes to be tired and forced, e.g. Brooks struggling through the language barrier while interviewing ethnic Indians and Muslims to be his assistant.
As the story progresses to his presence in India and surreptitious venture into Pakistan being confused as espionage, the laughs come to a halt and one feels that an over-arching cultural message may be presented. It never does, and the climax comes so abruptly with an ending text scroll that I was less concerned with resolution to the story and more concerned with wondering if they ran out of money and had to end production.
This one was a real stinker. As I wrote, laughs can be had if you pay attention, but I predict it will be quickly forgotten as another Brooks misstep.
Look, I like Albert Brooks. I find him wittingly funny. However this
film was an absolute bore. The 'Idea' of the film was far more humorous
than the film itself. This film is one of the very best examples that
'the' funniest parts of the film were in the trailer. And the trailer's
funny parts were, well, just somewhat humorous.
The most unbearable part for me (along with most of the film) was the scene where he did his stand up routine for an audience at a school auditorium. 'Me', and American, who actually really likes Brooks, found the routine, the 'elongated' routine absolutely not funny. If it wouldn't even appeal to us in a satirical way, how, why..... it simply was not funny! It's been a looooong time since I've ever not watched an entire film because it was so bad. Though I made it through this one to the end, I cant remember the last time I wanted so bad to cut my losses and shut it down. I should have.
But don't just go by me. There are people here that found some sense of humor in it, so might you. Yet for me, I'd rather have gone to the dentist.
LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE Muslim WORLD is a thinking man's comedy. If
you're of the 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN or DATE MOVIE crowd, please avoid this
film and spare us your "It just ...sucks" review.
If you're an Albert Brooks fan, you most certainly will enjoy his deadpan delivery and hyper-worried state that we came to enjoy during DEFENDING YOUR LIFE (I suspect this is why he was also cast as the father's voice in FINDING NEMO). But enough about Brooks. Let's see what the movie's about.
Looking For Comedy opens with Brooks arriving for a casting call at Penny Marshall's office (It's noteworthy to mention that Albert Brooks plays Albert Brooks and Penny Marshall plays Penny Marshall). Everyone seems to only recognize Brooks as "that guy who played that fish in Finding Nemo." His career is grudgingly winding down.
But upon returning home a letter from the government appears in the mail. He is summoned to Washington by a panel of Senators to do a research project for them ("Our first choice, quite frankly, wasn't available" they tell him when Brooks asks 'Why me?') And his job? Travel to India and Pakistan and find out what makes Muslims laugh. Oh. "And you have to write a 500-page report on it." "500 pages? I don't think I've ever written anything that long," Brooks protests. But he accepts the assignment and travels with two government men as his entourage and support crew. Once in India they bumble through getting an office and a secretary named Maya (the stunningly pretty Sheetal Sheth). Now the hard work begins. Either people won't talk to him or give him off the wall answers or give no answer at all. So Brooks decides to put on a comedy show at a local gymnasium only to have that fall flat, too.
To add insult to injury, war bells are ringing between Pakistan and India, bells that Brooks doesn't help with by sneaking across the border into Pakistan one night in order to meet up with some future comedian hopefuls.
The thing that makes this film so funny is that it doesn't try that hard. It just is. Brooks' normal paranoia fits perfectly with the script and makes us laugh time and again at his overzealous fears. Also is the fact that it shows the complete ineptness of government in trying to understand another culture by sending someone to another country who has no knowledge of such a job. And they send him to India! Although there are a lot of Muslims there, it is mainly a Hindu country. An Arab nation may have been a better choice but obviously the government higher-ups failed to do their own research before sending in an even-less-informed Brooks. Now THAT is subtle humor. If you "don't get that", you should avoid seeing this flick. But if you enjoy that kind of subtlety, give Looking For Comedy a try. It's a modern day and cerebral blast!
I think these critics don't get it. This is not a documentary. That's not his real wife and kid. This is not Albert Brooks, it's "Albert Brooks" in the same way that Woody Allen's character in his movies is not Woody Allen. Brooks spends the film mocking his own self-absorption and his question doesn't seem to be so much what makes these people laugh as do I make these people laugh. He has many opportunities to discover the truth but he continues, to great comic effect, to simply try to gratify his own wilted ego. Seen from this angle, the movie had me in tears. While this is not prime Albert Brooks, it was better than The Muse and it will do until the next one comes along.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lightweight but charming Albert Brooks vehicle has Brooks flying to
India and Pakistan to do what the title says. Movie is full of very
pointed criticisms of America and Americans: that, despite our good
intentions, we're self-involved, ignorant of foreign cultures,
condescending, and disruptive when we're not foolish (humorously,
Brooks single-handedly brings India and Pakistan to the brink of war).
Ironically, Brooks's stand-up bombs in India but is a big hit in
Pakistan, suggesting I suppose that we're far more alike than
different. Movie suffers from the typical Brooks flaw of being more a
concept than an actual story it just sort of ends arbitrarily, for
instance. But I admire Brooks deeply he's the guy Woody Allen wants
to be and I always enjoy seeing him perform. Not everybody can wear
his learning as lightly as Brooks. This movie is a good example, also,
of how to make political critiques without shrieking at your audience.
Subtlety is always the key.
Shockingly many people seem to have missed the point: the movie is not about Muslims but rather American's response to the foreign, a very different thing. I'll just say it's not a mistake that Maya comes off the best in the movie; that's the point.
We'll I must admit, I'm quite confused. If this is an attempt to
explore the Muslims sense of humour then I think maybe it would have
been a good idea to actually have some FUNNY content, especially in the
stand up routines. On the other hand if this is a parody on the
differences in humour then it failed completely because all I saw was
someone who totally failed to understand his subject and was quite
offencive at times.
Well. I'll put it like this, For a comedy, it wasn't funny. For an exploration of Muslim humour, it wasn't even a tiny bit insightful. For a bridge building exercise, it was embracing. And for a movie, it was a complete waste of my time.
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