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by Willie Waffle

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Looking for Comedy
in the Muslim World

Albert Brooks is the West Coast's version of Woody Allen, and I think he needs to take a lesson from Woody. Brooks' movies are never horrible, but he needs to try something else out of his comfort zone. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is a perfect example. It's not a horrible movie, but it feels tired, too slow and needs double the jokes. Maybe Brooks could go to England and make a movie with Scarlett Johansson? It worked for Woody, and spending time in England with Scarlett couldn't hurt.

Albert Brooks stars as Albert Brooks - the world famous comedian from America who is looking for work. He is asked by a special State Department commission headed by former Senator and current actor Fred Thompson (played by Fred Thompson) to spend a month in India and Pakistan to learn what makes Muslims laugh and write a 500 page report about it. For helping America start to bridge the gap between ourselves and the Muslim world, Brooks is promised a Medal of Freedom, which excites him to no end. Of course, once he starts the trip, Brooks realizes he is in for more than he bargained.

Can Brooks be successful on his mission? Will he be able to write a 500 page report?

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is a great premise, but Brooks struggles to make it work all the way through. As writer and director (as well as star) Brooks fills the movie with many funny moments and some great recurring gags, but it needs more energy and the kind of zaniness the situation naturally presents. It's a treat to see the comedian roll out some of his old stand up routine in an attempt to test what kind of material is funny (or not, a situation that makes Brooks the butt of most jokes, which is funny), and how the governments of India and Pakistan react when his comedy falls flat is a riot, but Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World world never quite finds its stride and has too many dull stretches without purpose. Generally, scenes feel very stiff, especially between Brooks and Amy Ryan, who plays his wife so badly I thought she really was his wife, not a Tony award nominated actress.

Worse than anything else in the movie, Brooks goes through the movie like he is asleep. Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World requires him to be more manic, more of a stereotypical Hollywood blowhard and more intense. He is supposed to be the flustered guy in the middle of a wild situation, but Brooks often acts like he just woke up from a midday nap. Co-star Sheetal Sheth is perfect and hilarious as his pure of heart and hard working assistant, Maya. She is the one actor who gets it and plays the role as wacky as possible. John Carroll Lynch and Jon Tenney both have their moments as the State Department workers assigned to help Brooks overseas, but like Brooks, they play it too cool instead of crazy.

If the movie was as funny and insightful as the bits where Brooks passes by the phone bank in his office building in India, I would urge you to see it. However, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is just a bit below average.

2 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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