Critical consensus of Albert Brooks' latest has not been kind. This seems a bit strange, given that the title of the film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
, lends itself so well to humorous mistitling, a practice that's life-giving insulin to most critics. I swear I've read this about twenty times now: "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World?
More like looking for comedy in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World!"
Naturally, we the review-reading audience clutch our sides and gasp for breath at the delicious moxie of our nation's critics. Nevertheless, is the film any good? If Looking for Comedy's
RottenTomatoes.com rating is any indication (a
as of this writing): No, it' not. Similarly, if any of the people I went and saw the film with on Friday were any indication (one of whom fell asleep; another of whom started checking her watch at the hour mark, every ten minutes until the credits): No, it' quite bad. In fact, if the American movie-going audience is any indication, whose passion to ignore Looking for Comedy
has been so resolute that it's made just over $400,000 so far, this film barely covered the cost of ass wear-and-tear on theater seats.
I say: To hell with those guys. I am not a sheep, sir. So, what did I think? I invite you to make drumroll motorboat noises with your mouth while I parrot back the overall consensus that Looking for
Comedy in the Muslim World
isn't very good.
Here's the thing: Even genuinely hilarious people like Eddie Murphy or Steve Martin have demonstrated their shelf life as relevant comedians with vast piles of filmic stool after they've hit their fifties. Where this leaves a mid-level talent like Albert Brooks, whose work exclusively attracts people who find Albert Brooks being self-absorbed for an hour and a half irretreivably hilarious, is anyone's guess. What's an actor's next move when their best work is behind them, and it wasn't really all that fantastic to begin with?
If you're Albert Brooks, it evidently means that you keep churning out variations of your first movie, hoping one of them will eventually be your
. Hence Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,
the latest installment in Brooks' time-worn Nebbishy Comic Wrings His Hands About Something While an Actress Far Out of His League Inexplicably Falls For Him
That Looking for Comedy
so closely resembles Albert Brooks' Every Other Movie
is forgivable; that it cheats us of the premise of the title in doing so is less so. An audience paying money to see a film called Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
should, I think, expect to see a comedian looking for comedy, perhaps even in the Muslim world. Brooks confounds these expectations by saying nothing of relevance about cultural differences, comedy, xenophobia or any of the other touchstones one might expect from something with a title like this, content instead to drive the plot right up his plothole with a lot of jokes about his career stalling. Hilarious! This, to me, has always been Albert Brooks' Achilles heel, and proof that the man would be better served writing movie premises than self-directed vehicles: He has a knack for luring you in with an intriguing idea, then ignoring it in favor of another self-inflicted colonoscopy.
I'm reminded of Defending Your Life,
another Brooks film with the intriguing premise of afterlife-as-Law & Order, where the recently deceased prove their worth in purgatorial court, with the help of a movie screen projecting snippets of their lives. If you think this sounds like a neat premise, you'll understand why I rented it; if you expected that