Albert Brooks is a funny man, and his deadpan and sarcastic delivery are ever present here, but there are just not enough quality lines to deliver.
Like a good joke, this film opens with a set-up that is encouraging and certainly creates anticipation. Like a bad joke, this film ends up going nowhere and the ending leaves the audience unsatisfied and disappointed.
In somewhat of a mockumentary, the U.S. government called upon Brooks to travel to India and Pakistan in order to discover what makes a 300-million strong Muslim community laugh. Though the premise is controversial, and the fish-out-of-water concept should be ripe with laughter, the humor never really materializes, other than that which is sorely forced.
There are a few genuine funny concepts here that have Brooks written all over them. An office on the same floor as his in India is full of people taking calls. Each time Brooks passes said office on the way to his, we hear the people answering the phones in different ways from Target Customer Service to OnStar Roadside Assistance to Dell Technical Support and many more. The concept of all such services originating in one office in India is terrific; unfortunately the execution is so subtle, that it does not quite come off.
There are many such poorly executed bits in this film. Brooks does a stand-up act for hundreds of Muslims that, for lack of a better term, bombs. Brooks asks if they understand English, and raises his own hand to indicate how he wants them to answer. The entire crowd raises their hands. This leaves the audience of the film to speculate whether they do understand English, or are just following the proverbial leader. Again, the concept of a comedian looking for an out to a failed routine by hoping that the audience does not speak English, only to find out that they do is classic Brooks, but the poor execution causes the bit to bomb as well.
Probably the most unsatisfying aspect of this film is how rapidly it winds up, while the audience is still waiting for it to get started. The ongoing bit about the size of the report that Brooks is expected to write generates a few laughs, but the fact that the trip is cut short due to some conceptually funny irony, and the report never really gets finished, is ironically indicative of the film itself. At 98 minutes, there was a lot more work to be done here.
The extras on the DVD are nothing to speak of. An added commentary by Brooks probably would have made this film worth having, as it hopefully would have answered some of the questions.
Recommendation: As you sit waiting for the Brooks humor boat to pull into port, you will smile at a few dinghies floating by, but in the end, you will be left feeling like you missed the boat.
There are far superior Brooks efforts out there to rent, so go look for comedy there.
Written by Hombre Divertido