Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Albert Brooks’ new film is really rather funny, and it’s funnier the more familiar you are with Brooks’ ultra-arch brand of humor. The title would suggest that this is finally a bracing and edgy comedy seeking to explode the tensions between our country and the areas of the world we are currently so fond of bombing. It is not. Rather it is another showcase for Brooks, and an excuse for him to do neurotic culture-clash shtick. And that is no bad thing.
Albert Brooks plays a comedian named Albert Brooks who is unexpectedly called upon by the government to head a research project on what makes Muslims laugh, and write up a 500-page report. With two feckless/indifferent agents in tow (Jon Tenney and John Carroll Lynch), he heads off to India (which is actually predominantly Hindu, but whatever). He is given no money, a crappy office and a capable assistant (Sheetal Sheth), and hits the streets, merely asking people what makes them laugh. He puts on a concert in which Brooks gets an opportunity to do some of his old (and hilarious) stand-up routines, including a bit with a ventriloquist dummy which is better seen than described, and a improve routine, where he rewrites all of the audiences suggestions. He is also, briefly, able to sneak over the border into Pakistan to do his bits for some Pakistani stoners around a fire. He stresses about writing 500 pages, heals his assistant’s relationship, argues with his agents…
It’s difficult to describe Brooks’ films, and make them sound funny. His humor is so subdued, so wry, that you’re often not sure if he’s doing a satire or not. Looking for Comedy has some utterly riotous moments, but you’re not going to see them if you’re not looking closely. Brooks uses throwaways, pained expressions, forced self-ignorance, and very, very subtle parodies as his brand. These things may be lost on fans of broad comedy, but to the astute observer, the jokes will hit just the right place. The film is certainly not perfect, nor does it approach Brooks’ better films. But darned if I wasn’t guffawing from time to time.
-January 20th, Warner Independent Films