Egyptian American comedian Ahmed Ahmed documents his journey across the Middle East performing stand-up for Arab and Muslim laugh-seekers in the jaunty, if slim, documentary "Just Like Us."
The ebullient Ahmed, who traveled and shared the marquee with such diverse comics as Tommy Davidson, Whitney Cummings, Angelo Tsarouchas, Omid Djalili and Ted Alexandro, attempts to depict the essential sameness between comedy club patrons worldwide while unveiling the evolving cultural face of an often mysterious and unpredictable region.
Ahmed takes a decidedly lighter, more surface approach in examining how the area's complex geographic, religious and political history has affected imported and homegrown entertainment. The director-comedian does, however, effectively poke fun at several preconceived notions about the Middle East: That there is no difference between Arabs and Muslims, that women are uniformly oppressed and that it's a humorless society.
With stops in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt, Ahmed and his costars good-naturedly navigate each country's varied social mores and censorship issues as they work to tickle their eager audiences.
Despite its brief running time, the film feels padded by sightseeing footage and a warm but diversionary visit between Ahmed and his Cairo-area relatives. Still, "Just Like Us" proves an amusing, uniquely unifying effort.
"Just Like Us." MPAA Rating: R for language. In English and Arabic with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 12 minutes. At Landmark's Regent, Westwood.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times