Netflixable? In this Egyptian comedy, a lot can go wrong in “One Second”

“One Second” is an often loud, generally goofy Egyptian comedy of the High Concept school.

It’s no better and not really any worse than a lot of similar Hollywood farces built on similarly silly concepts. But the novelty of it being Egyptian intrigued me enough to take this “Around the World with Netflix” trip.

The “high concept,” which has to be funny enough and simple enough to be summed up in a sentence, is a that businesswoman finds herself responsible for an unidentified grown man who develops amnesia due to a car accident she helped cause. The hook? He thinks he’s a child, and that she’s his “Mommy.”

Just getting to that takes a bit of screen time and a lot of the energy of Mostafa Hamdy’s script.

First, there’s rushed, nagged Dina (Dina El Sherbiny), late on her way to a big job interview, badgered by her Dad-hating mother (Sawsan Badr).

Self-absorbed Mom won’t let Dina get dressed and out the door without another telephoned tirade about Dina’s father.

“Who else can I vent to?” in Arabic with English subtitles.

“To God,” Dina hisses back. “To GOD!”

The script serves up a string of unfortunate events that coincide to put Dina in the wrong car with the wrong driver at the very worst time. The running gag here is that much what goes wrong is due to a laid-back “service” culture of borderline incompetents who do not pay attention to detail.

Dina’s nosy, Islamic conservative building concierge (Bayoumi Fouad) parked her car without turning off the lights. It won’t start. A busy out-of-town businessman (Mostafa Khater) is stuck in an “unprofessional” ride-share driver’s beater, forced to wait while the boob runs in for a bathroom break. That invites a car-jacker to take over the ride. The businessman is robbed of anything that would ID him, and left to make his way to his appointment in the now-stolen car.

Dina steps into the car, thinking it’s her “Uber.” And their argument over this, neither listening to the other, leads to the wreck.

Glimpses of the writer and director’s view of modern Egypt sneak into much that happens here. The hospital insists that Dina is responsible for this stranger she brought in. The police make her cover herself in a more modest dress (off camera) before their slack-jawed chewing out interrogation over the stolen car. The real thief basically is in custody, but he walks because, again, “incompetence.”

In the best Kafkaesque nightmare, everybody wants to pass the buck. Even callous, officious Dina tries to “ditch” this unwanted “responsibility.” Repeatedly.

Exasperated Dina has to take this bearded adult-but-babbling-like-a-child, back to her apartment. But conservative Mer’i the concierge makes noise about “respectable” and what’s “not allowed” (a divorced woman bringing a man to her flat) and makes threats about who he’ll report her to.

A bribe settles his moral qualms. Bribe after bribe, as it turns out. That’s autocratic theocracy for you, Catholic Supreme Court.

Dina can’t find out who this guy is, and there’s no actual cure for an illness that is “very very rare,” the distracted and dizzy doctor lets her know. Add that to the job interview she missed, her parents’ troubles and her own issues with a possessive and hot-tempered ex.

Her “little boy?” He just wants to play with the five year-old girl next door. “Bride and groom” is her favorite game, it turns out.

That’s as daring this fairly hip contemporary comedy gets. The “kid” wants bedtime stories and cornflakes “the way mommy makes them,” and then abruptly starts hitting the clubs, dancing to Tone and I’s “Dance Monkey,” jamming out to “Seven Nation Army.”

They grow up so fast.

El Sherbiny, Khater and Fouad give this their all — or close to it. A lot of what plays out does so at high volume as everybody involved shouts through every fresh turn of events or new disagreement. But shouting can’t cover for the lack of good jokes that bedevils this picture. A chuckle here and there is all it manages, some of them coming from simple shock.

The whole bearded man playing with a little girl thing is amusing and taken right up to the line of “creepy.” And then the devout Muslim Mer’i makes it worse.

“Let them tie the knot,” he helpfully suggests, “and keep it a secret.”

Yeah. They go there.

“One Second” — all the time it takes for all these lives to be disrupted — plays like a film that started production before the script was finished. Because figuring out a (somewhat) logical way to resolve this that isn’t weird or twisted, and might be funny, proves to be impossible for both the writer and director.

They may have a little surprise to spring on us, but the picture, which never really gets going, has exhausted itself long before that arrives. And then it goes on into more unfunny and illogical minutes after that Big Reveal.

As it turns out, a sputtering anti-climax is about all this movie deserves.

Rating: TV-14, violence, adult situations

Cast: Dina El Sherbiny, Mostafa Khater, Bayoumi Fouad, Sawsan Badr, Ahmad El-Fishawi

Credits: Directed by Akram Fareed, scripted by Mostafa Hamdy. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:28

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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