Exporting Raymond (2011) -vs- Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)

August 1, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

Two very funny men – the co-creator/show-runner of one of the best sitcoms of the last two decades, and the writer/director/star of some of the best movie comedies of the previous two decades – are sent to seemingly unfunny countries on the other side of the globe, both in hopes that their humor is universal enough to withstand translation and jump cultural boundaries, and both in for a series of surprises, disappointments, and comic adventures.

Phil Rosenthal’s documentary Exporting Raymond, a wise-ass chronicle of his consulting gig on the Russian version of his iconic, long-running show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is now out on video (as of Aug. 2) after a brief theatrical run. Is it the exercise in whiny narcissism it probably sounds like? And more to the point, does it cover the same sort of gefilte-fish-out-of-water territory that Albert Brooks covered in his (fictional) Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (2005)? Is this deja vu all over again?

Grab a bowl of borscht and a dish of saag paneer, and sit back and enjoy an international Smackdown about the wonderful universality of comedy. Or lack thereof. […]

Avatar (2009) -vs- Dances with Wolves (1990)

December 21, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Allegorical movies are tough. On one hand, the social messages are essential to keeping cinema relevant and meaningful. Yet I always grow wary of a movie made for the sake of a message and not for the sake of entertaining audiences. The best way to judge that may be to measure Avatar against another film that it shares some themes with: Dances with Wolves.

Both films, for example, discuss imperialism against the epic backdrop of human emotion and struggle — only one does it here on Earth, the other on a faraway planet. But what about the entertainment value? The story? The characters? Which film goes the farthest beyond preaching and instead involves its audiences in the big question: What would it take for me to go up against my own kind? […]