Review: ‘The Muslims Are Coming!’ comedians are playfully serious

Directors Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah in a still from "The Muslims are Coming!"

The Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming! Directors Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah and a lineup of fellow Muslim American comedians hit the road in this documentary that follows their stand-up tour throughout the American Southeast and West.

When they’re not performing some actually pretty edgy material, they’re setting up public stunts like “Ask a Muslim,” “Name That Religion” and “Hug a Muslim.” Their goal is to introduce “Muzzies” — real American Muzzies, not just the scary, hateful, jihadist versions you see on TV — and help tone down some of the Islamophobic rhetoric they encounter every day.

Along the way, “The Muslims Are Coming!” addresses a myriad of issues within the Islamic community, including gender, race and religion. The hint at disagreement among the performers about who can and cannot call themselves Muslim is particularly provocative — a debate that would have been better off played out on-screen rather than summarized after the fact.

The directors’ credentials as cultural commentators are no joke: Farsad is a Cornell- and Columbia-educated onetime policy advisor for New York City, and Obeidallah is a former attorney who contributes to CNN and the Daily Beast. Yet they leave the heavy lifting to the likes of Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow and Soledad O’Brien while they try to keep it light, even a little cheesy, in the face of at-times infuriating anti-Muslim attitudes — an approach that best serves their goal of giving America “this big Muslim hug.”



“The Muslims Are Coming!”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Playing: At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles