Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Rated 3.0

Writer-director Albert Brooks (playing himself) accepts a government assignment to spend a month in India and Pakistan finding out what Muslims find funny. The unstated irony, of course, is that Brooks isn’t always the best judge even of what Americans find funny—and this is Exhibit A. Like many of his movies, it’s full of clever ideas that never seem to pan out; we chuckle with anticipation at the start of a scene, and then our grins wither while we wait for a payoff that doesn’t come. Plot complications are introduced—the jealous boyfriend of Brooks’ Indian assistant (the lovely and charming Sheetal Sheth) and a nuclear crisis unwittingly sparked by Brooks’ project—and then dropped, while less-promising gags are driven into the ground. Still, through it all, Brooks and his movie remain essentially likeable.