Hollywood’s Self-Reflexive Post-9-11 Movie


Too provocatively titled for its first distributor, Albert Brooks’s Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is nothing if not high-concept. This is the most self-reflexive of Hollywood’s post-–9-11 movies—wondering, as it does, just what exactly the patriotic entertainment industry can do to help make things right. The humor in the film is so dry that those expecting boffo yuks might well be looking for water in the desert. Moreover, the movie is complicated by two paradoxes—one annoyingly obvious, the other fascinatingly implicit. The first is the use of India, which, although home to 150 million Muslims, has six times as many Hindus; the second is that Brooks’s comic sensibility travels so badly. In the end, it is a satire of American solipsism. Brooks plays a character so self-absorbed he visits the Taj Mahal and manages not to notice it. As the film ends, who can fail to appreciate the care with which he steps on his own apocalyptic punchline? That’s the joke. Extras include additional scenes and the trailer.