LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: 2 STARS
Albert Brooks stars in the movie with the most audacious title of the season. In the film the comedian is called upon to attend a secret State Department meeting regarding the shape of humor in the Muslim world. His mission, should he accept it, is to spend a month in India and Pakistan and then write a 500-page report on what tickles the Muslim funny bone. What seems to be a plum government assignment is soon revealed to be less than ideal as Brooks begins his travels in hospitality class and finds himself stuck in an office behind a large call center in New Delhi.
The premise of this mockumentary is to shatter the idea that Muslim equals terrorist in the post 9/11 world. Brooks attempts this not with sharp satire, but with the loping rhythms of his understated comedy. In the end all we really discover that humor is global even if the things that make North Americans laugh leave Indian audiences straight faced.
Brooks is a legendary comedy writer, and his self-depreciating humor relies on a perfect set-up to really drive the punch line home. Looking for Comedy is a great premise looking for a great way to present the comedy. There are funny lines and several funny situations—such as when Brooks auditions for the lead role in Harvey for director Penny Marshall—but the movie as a whole doesn’t hold together and as a viewer I found myself looking for the comedy in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.