Terminally Self-Conscious Mooz-lum Plays Like an After-Madrasa Special
Solemn, unsubtle, and terminally self-conscious, Mooz-lum is maxed out on a number of fronts, beginning with the emotional investment of its director, Qasim Basir. The actual events that Mooz-lum is based on presumably involve Basirs experience growing up in a Muslim family, and, as sometimes happens when translating personal stories, the stresses fall in all the wrong places. The will of a quaking family patriarch (Roger Guenveur Smith) to send his son Tariq (Jonathan Smith) to an Islamic boarding school leads to a split with his moderate wife (Nia Long). Mooz-lum alternates between the bumpy assimilation of adult Tariq (Evan Ross) into collegewhere he reinvents himself as T and renounces his faithand his embattled younger years. Both storylines play like an after-madrasa special, from the animatronic performances and overbearing sound and dialogue cues (a clerics slaps get kung-fu effects; Tariqs fellow co-eds speak in The More You Know koans) to the evasive streamlining of complicated themes. A subplot involving a Muslim professor and an intolerant dean (Danny Glover) is similarly ill-articulated; Glover is the ignorant infidel, around mainly to mispronounce Muslim. When the 9/11 card is abruptly pulled from Basirs kufi, all hope that it might be played to the films advantage evaporates.
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