Release Date: January 20th, 2006 (City Cinemas 86th St. and Landmark Sunshine cinemas) by Warner Independent Pictures.
The Cast: Albert Brooks, Amy Ryan, Sheetal Sheth, Emma Lockhart Homie Doroodian, Jon Tenny, John Carroll Lynch.
Directed by Albert Brooks.
BASIC PREMISE: The U.S. Government gives Albert Brooks (Brooks) less than two weeks to write a 500-page report about what makes Muslim people laugh.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: A director who plays a different version of himself in a movie doesn’t always work. Sometimes it does work with great success, like with Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending or with Albert Brooks’s The Muse . In both of those films, the main character had a different name from the directors. In Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Albert Brooks calls the title character his own name to remove any doubt that he might be playing somebody else. The amusing first act has director Penny Marshall making fun of Brooks when he shows up in her office to be cast in one of her movies. When he’s out the door a minute later, he says to her, “it took me longer to find a parking space!” Back at home, his wife hands him a confidential letter from the government. He hopes it has nothing to do with the Al-Jazeera website he had briefly surfed on just out of curiosity—not a very original joke. The funniest moment is when he sits in front of the government and they explain to him why they want him to look for comedy in the Muslim world: the president has a sense of humor. Rather than travel directly to Pakistan, he goes to India where there’s a small population of Muslims. The second act in India is full of lame jokes that simply fall flat. He hires a Hindu assistant named Maya played by the beautiful Sheetal Sheth. Maya never ends up taking more than a page of notes per day—this unfunny joke repeats itself too many times. Desperate to find more opportunities for comedy, he manages to get hundreds people to show up for his stand-up routine in “The Big Show”, where Brooks’ self-deprecating humor continues. He has to learn both as a comedian and as an actor that if you try too hard to be funny, it just doesn’t work. Even a sub-plot about Maya’s jealous, over-protective boyfriend falls flat when it comes to drama and romance. The third act looses plausibility and any humor with crazy political satire. Brooks might have found a little comedy in the Muslim world, but, here in America, he has lost his comedic edge both as a writer and as a comedic actor. Now would be the time for him to call his muse.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: None is required or desired.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Unoriginal, repetitive jokes and an implausible third act.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
IN A NUTSHELL: Sporadically funny, but most of the jokes fall flat along with any desperate attempts for satire.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: TV
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