'Looking For Comedy In the Muslim World'


"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" is a terrible title. It's a lead weight, an albatross, a ... well, anything you can think of that doesn't convey lightness or wit. But it's pretty much the only thing in Albert Brooks' new film that isn't funny.

"Looking for Comedy ..." casts the writer-director-star as his most reliable character, a fictionalized version of himself, hired by the actor-turned-politician-turned-actor-again Fred Dalton Thompson to go to India and Pakistan, find out what the Muslim locals find funny, and write a 500-page report about his trip. Brooks being Brooks, he accepts, but immediately starts fixating on the length of the report.

Accompanied by two State Department aides (played by Jon Tenney and John Carroll Lynch), Brooks makes the trip to Delhi, hires a chipper assistant (Sheetal Seth) and proceeds to run into one brick wall after another -- the locals think he's an agitator, the State guys can't secure his visas, and an interview with al-Jazeera programmers somehow turns into a sitcom pitch. And that's before he triggers the international incident.

"Looking for Comedy ..." has the same precise balance of awkward smiles and belly laughs that distinguishes Brooks' best work: "Real Life," "Lost in America," "Defending Your Life." People who've been waiting for him to return to form after "Mother" and "The Muse" will be delighted. Others will just shake their heads at the terrible title, but there's nothing more I can do about that.

Somewhat disappointingly, Warner's enhanced-widescreen DVD doesn't offer an audio commentary; one imagines Brooks would have quite a bit to talk about on this picture, not the least of which being the struggle to find distribution after a previous studio dropped it over the specifics of its title. We do get a handful of deleted scenes, though, including one very funny exchange in a Hindi DVD store.

STUDIO:Warner Home Video
RELEASE DATE:August 29th
PRICE: $27.95
TIME: 98 minutes
DVD EXTRAS:English, French and Spanish subtitles; deleted scenes.
INTERNET SITE: lookingforcomedy.com

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