Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
Now I know- when I hear a film is written and directed by Albert Brooks in the future, I will run. I suggest you do the same.
Trying to find what makes people laugh in the Muslim world and understand their sense of humor is an interesting concept for a movie indeed.
I went into watching this movie, naively thinking "gee I would actually be interested in learning more about this subject." In fact, based on the previews for this film, I actually thought it was a documentary put together with Albert Brooks merely as one of the people who goes around interviewing people. Trust me, a documentary on this subject could have been really a fascinating and insightful piece, especially in comparison to Looking for Comedy in a Muslim World.
So perhaps you would think after viewing Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World I would be at least slightly more well-versed in understanding people in another part of the world, right?
Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is about a Jewish comedian (Albert Brooks playing himself, of course) who is sent specifically by the presidental candidate Fred Thompson to go on a month long research trip. Brooks is assigned to study and report back on the subject about what makes Muslims laugh. Thompson says this is a request from the government so that the US can better understand people in the Middle East. Yea... it sounds like they are really serious about wanting to learn, doesn't it. B-list comic actors always get the job done right.
Unfortunately this movie does absolutely nothing to illuminate the subject. In fact, it really doesn't even take place in the Muslim world I was anticipating, 85% of the film takes place in New Delhi, about 14% takes place in a wealthy section of Los Angeles.
So yes you guessed it, 1% takes place in Pakistan right near the border of India. The rest of the countries in the world with high Muslim populations are not even mentioned in this film. So already you have a failure based on the title of this film alone. Yes, spare me the geography lesson, I know that there are Muslims living in India. However, when Brooks is in India in this movie he dedicates all his time towards working with Hindus. It's quite bewildering.
Most of the film is spent with Brooks worrying about not having enough material from his research to write the 500 page paper he is assigned. He hires a secretary and seems to be trying to get her to do his work. Perhaps he should have followed in suit with his work on the script. It seems lazy and half-hazard.
Brooks actually has an original concept to work with here, and he explores very little and reaches no conclusions. In fact, the movie is really about him and his personality which we are obviously supposed to find funny and charming. It appears Brooks is obsessing for most of the film about whether he is a good comedian and obsessing whether he is respected at all. Further, a sub-plot also revolves around a sexual attraction between Brooks and his hired Indian female assistant. Being that Albert Brooks is at about a 180 degree turn from being Muslim, again Looking for Comedy in a Muslim World does little to explore the topic it falsely appears to be exploring.
At one point in the film, Brooks is walking and talking to his assistant about himself (again) and strolls by the Taj Mahal without taking a second glance at it. You could interpret this as being a brilliant comment on the narcissism of the West.
However, to my surprise, there is about a 5% chance of latent genius lurking here. If the film had just been titled "Albert Brooks is a total narcissist," instead of its false and misleading title, it might put the film in a different light and as a result be a slightly better movie.