Monday, March 17, 2008
Lost in India
It would be fitting in a way, although also very sad, if Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World were Albert Brooks' last film, because it bookends so nicely with his first movie, 1979's Real Life. In both movies, Albert plays a filmmaker named Albert Brooks, although in Real Life he's actually making a movie, while in the newer one he's writing a report (500 pages long, as he frequently complains) on what makes Muslims laugh and constantly being reminded of Finding Nemo.
Albert certainly deserves to make as many movies as he possibly can, but Muslim World wasn't exactly a hit, and - hard as it may be to believe - it almost didn't get released at all, because its title was supposedly too controversial. But before it was even released in the U.S., it was shown at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2005. So some Muslims must have liked it.
Maybe it would help if Brooks wasn't so self-deprecating all the time. One of the State Department employees who goes with Albert to the Muslim world tells him that he kind of liked Lost in America, except that he found the ending a little tacked-on. Twice, he tells him this. He also does some of his legendary standup for a New Delhi audience (above right) and dies. Dies, dies, dies. Come on, Albert, we all know you're funny; it's OK if you act like you think so too.
Muslim World is no Real Life, which is uproarious even if you dock it several notches for inadvertantly spawning reality TV. Brooks, as I said, more or less plays himself, directing a movie about a family in Phoenix, complete with cameramen wearing deep-sea divers' helmets with cameras built in. When the family doesn't produce the kind of drama Albert needs for the ending to his film, he simply burns their house down. Now that's funny.