year: 2005
cast: Albert Brooks, Fred Thompson
writer/director: Albert Brooks
rating: ***

Post 911, Albert Brooks, playing himself - a borderline-has-been comedic-actor who really needs that "great role" - is hired by Washington to find out what makes Muslims laugh... to help bridge the gap between "us and them". He's sent to India (where there are hindus but also many muslims) to interview people, asking them what they think is funny. Well the movie isn't very funny but it is involving, as Brooks interviews people on the streets and sets up a comedy concert where he performs his improvisational routines that no one in the audience gets. That is, they understand English, but don't find him funny. He then goes to Pakistan, illegally through the border, and entertains hash-smoking soldiers who, unlike the Indians - and stoned out of their minds - love his routine. The Iranians catch wind of this and a war almost breaks out: a pasted-on b-story that never comes to fruition, and frankly is a distraction that doesn't need to be there. By the end, when Brooks is back home with a fictional wife and daughter, what have we learned? Nothing much, but for a bland mockumentary, it's decent enough; Brooks' signature non-polarizing yet completely obvious indifference to the natives providing the sole "punchline" throughout. Albert is older but not much wiser. His character - who is himself in this case, which makes no difference - hasn't changed. He still doesn't know what he has to offer, and is trying to discover himself and his purpose: the "mission" i.e. plot here is but a platform for him to do so, as usual. Not up to par with "Lost In America" or "Defending Your Life" but leagues above "Mother", "The Muse", and "The Scout".

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