19 January 2006

Laughing With (Or At?) Muslims?

Do Muslims have a sense of humor? Will you find out by going to see the new Albert Brooks movie "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World"?

I don't know. Haven't seen it yet. Those who have give it a mixed review. The rather improbable story is that the US government decides to deal with the Muslim world not with more bombings, but by appointing Brooks (playing himself) to go to India and Pakistan and produce a 500-page report on what makes Muslims laugh.

Altmuslim.com reports that Sony Pictures refused to release the film unless the word "Muslim" was removed from the title. So it was picked up by more open-minded Warner Independent, which releases it tomorrow (Jan. 20).

"Whenever I heard anyone talk about Muslims, it was in association with terrorism," Brooks says. "There had to be some way to separate the 1.5 billion people who don't want to kill us from the 100,000 or so who do."

The film reportedly pokes fun at neurotic comics and culturally ignorant Americans as it explores a little-discussed aspect of Muslim culture.
So does it work?

"Given the controversy, you'll be thrown at first by the surface blandness of this mock documentary. The laughs are decidedly hit-and-miss. But stick around, this satire knows how to bite you when you least expect it."
-- ROLLING STONE

"Though his last couple of efforts felt distressingly watered-down, Brooks has got a lot of his old edge back in this often-riotous send-up of ugly Americanism run amok. "
-- PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY

"Dumped by its original distributor because of its title, Albert Brooks's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World should, instead, have been ditched for not being very funny."
-- SLANT MAGAZINE

"By bombing in the Muslim world--in the comedic sense--Brooks produces one of his funniest films in years."
-- COMINGSOON.NET

SoundRoots thinks it's probably worth seeing, if only to encourage more diversity in movie portrayals of Muslims (you know, other than terrorist, religious fanatic, and the like). If you've seen it, leave a comment with your reactions. You can watch the trailer at the movie's website.
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Rain update: Today we tie the 1953 record of 33 consecutive rain days here in Olympia, Washington, USA. It's dry now, but dark clouds loom outside SoundRoots headquarters. Keep your fingers crossed.
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