Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Monday, August 23, 2010

Looking, but not finding, comedy anywhere

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)
Starring: Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth, and John Carroll Lynch
Director: Albert Brooks
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When comedian Albert Brooks (Brooks) is sent to India and Pakistan to compile a report for the United States government on what makes Muslims laugh, he finds the task more difficult than he imagined.

To say that "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is mild-mannered is an understatement. The movie is so polite and respectable, its voice so soft, that the audience has a hard time figuring out what exactly it's trying to say. Is it a film about a man who is too wrapped up in himself to see that he misses many examples of comedy and what amuses Muslims (and Hindi, since Brooks spends most of his time in Hindu-dominated parts of India)? Is it a film about the ineffectiveness of political bodies to truly deal with the human element (which the film shows all sorts of examples of)? Is it just a string of mildly amusing skits that aren't supposed to be anything else but mildly amusing (something the film also has plenty of examples of)? Is it supposed to be about differing cultures failing to intersect (something the film also provides multiple examples of)?

Frankly, I'm not sure, but I do know that the post-script was the only thing I actually laughed at. I spent most of the rest of the film feeling embarrassed on behalf of Brooks (the character, not the actor) and thinking about how if the film didn't feature the very attractive Sheth as Brook's local ever-cheerful assistant, I probably wouldn't have stuck with this film.

It's not that it's a bad movie, and I really wanted to like it more than I did. Every actor featured does a good job, and every character that appears is perfectly believable--perhaps a little too believable, because watching this film isn't that different from every day life. In other words, "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is so blandly polite that it's no different than what you'd probably experience if you were to head down to the local shopping mall and spend an afternoon people-watching. Worse, it's probably not all that different from just another day at the office. (Well, except for the hashish smoking, AK47-toting Pakistani wanna-be comedians.)


  1. Does he go to Saudi Arabia in the film? How about Iran?

  2. Nope. This movie is tepid and weak-kneed in every way.

    Of course, Saudi Arabian comedians are known for bombing, as this story from 2006 demonstrates.

  3. Interesting....
    I've been curious about this film since it was released. I'm glad you reviewed it.

    And I'm not surprised Brooks would hold his punches. For as talented as he is, the guy does seem a bit timid to me.