"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim
Directed by Albert Brooks.
Written by Albert Brooks.
Starring Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth, Jon Tenney and John Carroll
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 1/20/06
I got a freebie to catch the new Albert
Brooks comedy "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World", and then I
got to thinking as I was standing in line:
Why does the world even like
Albert Brooks so much?
I mean, he seems like a nice enough guy, and
even though he's made some films that are good, I don't know if I
think enough of Albert Brooks IN those films that makes me believe
him to be a comedian of any real talent. Regardless, Brooks
has hung around the game for a long time; over 30 years, about 20
flicks, most of which were average with the exception of "Mother",
"Broadcast News" or maybe "Defending Your Life", which by most
accounts are good, if not great, motion pictures. Yeah, he
even got an Oscar nomination for the work in "Broadcast News", but
certainly no one these days thinks enough of the guy to cast him in
an important part with Oscar chances. When a friend of mine
asked me recently what the most famous work was that Brooks had
done, I honestly had no idea what to say.
But, even if you hate Mr. Brooks, you have
to admit that the idea for his latest film is a funny one--playing
himself, the film follows Brooks as he is sitting at home in L.A.
one day when he receives a certified letter from the government
requesting he make an appearance at the Department of State ASAP to
discuss a "situation." Eager to make sure he's not being
investigated for randomly visiting an Al Qaeda website, Brooks
arrives (at the real-life Department of Agriculture building, not
the movie version Department of State, which drew whistles from the
knowledgeable D.C. crowd in attendance) to learn why he has really
been invited to meet with government officials:
A special committee wants Brooks to visit
India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh. He
will be sent immediately for a month with two government assistants
(Jon Tenney and John Carroll Lynch) who will help him draft a
500-page report to help understand the Muslim people. Brooks
agrees to take the project, which takes him to India where he will
have to hire a competent assistant to take notes for him and act as
a translator. Once Maya, the assistant (played by Sheetal
Sheth), is on-board, it's off to meet many of the people of India to
find out what makes them tick by doing street interviews and hosting
a comedy show.
This flick does have some pretty good
laughs, thanks to killer throwaway shots like the sequences where
Brooks comes into his office in India, only to hear in the
neighboring office a chop shop where various U.S. firms have hired
Indian help to service their products and/or phone systems ("Dell
Computer, what seems to be the problem?" or "The White House...how
may I direct your call?"). Brooks' deadpan delivery works
throughout, as does the constant banter between Brooks and his
worthless government help. The cut of the film we had was not
centered correctly, so in lowering the print too far we had boom
shots constantly appearing in our viewing range, which made the film
look at times like a student film.
What makes up for that are the stunning
shots of India, as the film looks to have been shot mainly abroad
and is beautifully photographed; sometimes, just shots of Indian
signboards were cool to me. Sure, the movie version of Brooks'
wife and child (played here by Amy Ryan and Emma Lockhart,
respectively) are way too good-looking for a man of
Brooks'...caliber, and the assistant is the hottest woman we see
during the India sequence. But, all of that is okay if there
are laughs, and yes, there are money.
What else takes away from the overall
experience? Over-the-top silly stuff, like when Albert and his
entourage miss the Taj Mahal despite being right next to it for ten
minutes; the staged comedy show, which even in translation wasn't
too funny at all; and, the ending of the flick, which kind of
Overall, "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim
World" was fun, not great, just a funny time at the movies.
You'll hear no one walking out of the theater talking about Brooks'
greatness; rather, this one a great Saturday activity if you've got
some time to burn between naps. Enjoy!
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard