2 April 2006 | bc5431
A hilarious, brave piece of film-making that exceeds all expectations
I just saw this at an advance screening and was astounded. Based on the previews, I had concerns like many of the people posting in the forum here: that it would be stupid, flat, bland "American sucks because..." formulaic drivel with a little bit of Arab stereotyping thrown in for good measure. I went into the film expecting to hate it. From the first line through, I was converted. The film offers a very interesting take on what the problems are in modern America, but it is not entirely negative: it also has a lot of good things to say about what makes America work. It creates a perfect blend of political satire, social commentary, and intelligent, dark humor. All of this, is, of course, peppered with the sparkling wit that we have come to expect from writer/director/producer Weitz, whose past credits range from the crass American Pie to About a Boy. There have been lots of people expressing fears over Arab stereotyping, and I would be lying if I said that terrorism doesn't play a large role, but I don't think I'm spoiling anything here (it was in the previews). The film looks at America as seen by a young Iraqi man, Omer (Sam Golzari, who does a brilliant job of showing his constant turmoil as he struggles to reconcile the America that he sees and that which he was taught about), who comes to the States after spending his life being indoctrinated by a terrorist organization. Through his eyes, we see all the good and all the bad that this country has to offer. As a result, every single person, with the exception of Omer, is a caricature. The Arab terrorists seem like stereotypes because individual characters have been reduced to the essentials that are necessary for the satire to work. The terrorists are made more terrorist-y to create the separation from reality that satire requires. By the same token, the heartless Hollywood producer, the white-trash family, the loyal boyfriend, the opulent L.A. family, the idiot president and manipulative chief of staff, etc. are all caricatures of the people who they are standing for. The film does not engage in Arab stereotyping because it is racist drivel, but engages in caricaturing Arab terrorists (without implying that all Arabs are terrorists) because the genre calls for it. I don't know what else I can say about this movie, except that it might not be for everyone. It is NOT your usual Hollywood fare, so do not go to it expecting a few laughs and two hours of diversion from your life. Rather, like the satires of Swift, it will make you question everything about how you view the world, and it will make you laugh so hard, you don't even know it is doing this, until you leave the theater and everything looks just a little bit different. This is one of the most intelligent, unique, daring, and insightful films to have come out of Hollywood in a long time. This is a film made for every single person who has asked why Hollywood keeps putting out stupid, uninteresting films that trade out heart and intelligence for breasts and explosions. At the same time, this is a sublimely funny film that would appeal to an extremely wide range of ages and backgrounds.