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Home: Dubai Film Festival 2005: Day 7: Looking for comedy in the Muslim world

Starring: Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks should look elsewhere to fulfill his quest of learning what makes Muslims laugh. The approach of this film and its execution are so heavily drenched in Western stereotypes about the people they want to study, it's a surprise the title doesn't use the word 'Moslem' instead of 'Muslim'.

Made in a sort of 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' manner, it has Brooks playing himself at a point in time when his career prospects are slim and decent roles are hard to come by. Luckily for him the white house and state department come knocking and Brooks is sent off to the subcontinent to write a report on what makes Muslims laugh. Forget that India is officially a secular nation (the movie reasons there are about 150 Muslims there) or that Al spends in all about 15 minutes in neighboring Pakistan (an Islamic country), the fact remains that nothing about this film, except a scant few one liners, is funny or amusing. The list of crimes it commits with regard to typecasting is enormous and unforgivable – an office in the tech capital of the world has no computer, trendy young English speaking Indian women only wear sari's and the Pakistani's that meet Brooks look like bearded fundamentalists who smoke hashish- all of which shows great naiveté on the part of everyone involved with this misguided attempt, even if the irresponsible intent was to be tongue in cheek.

The method used by Albert Brooks to understand what is considered funny to these people is putting on a standup comedy show in both India and Pakistan, but this doesn't work too well. Was it ever considered by him that perhaps it isn't the understanding of the English language that prevents the Indian audience from finding him funny, but that all the gags are soaked in cultural references completely alien to them (Halloween, 'The Exorcist' etc.)? Or that the people being targeted aren't really aware of just what standup comedians really do. It becomes pretty clear that the movie is played for obvious lowbrow humor by displaying ignorance about its purpose that borders on being a sham and the real point is to milk the present hysteria about the people of the Muslim community and make some quick bucks in the process via the mild publicity it has already received for its attention grabbing title. Give this one a pass. - by Faizan Rashid

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   [C-]
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