A wealthy, 60ish husband is getting nagged by his wife in their United Arab Emirates mansion. She’s heard of a husband who built a mosque in loving tribute to his late wife.
Doesn’t her husband love her that much?
“Great,” he says. “I have land and I’m ready to start building.” Pause. Smirk. “The rest is on you!”
And there it is, ladies and gentlemen and Albert Brooks and anybody else “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” — a marriage joke complete with set-up, punchline and laugh, all in Arabic and courtesy of the Egyptian comedy “Emergency Travel.”
It’s a broadly-played and simple “fish out of water” farce about mistaken identity, miscommunications, a search for a “father I never knew” and Egyptian bumpkins suddenly ensconced in oil money luxury.
Habib Ghuloom is the lead, playing a mouthy, not-wholly-broke Cairo “Doctor…” of computer, cell phone and vacuum cleaner repairs.
“There’s nothing wrong with your vacuum,” a complaining customer is told after passing on his spouse’s excuse for dirty floors. “There’s something wrong with your wife. You should marry another one, or just replace her!”
The jokes are corny and old-fashioned and way out of date, by Western standards, which explains the film’s G-rating.
A friend’s “business opportunity” has them wondering where they can round up some cash. “Maybe ask your Dad” over in the Arab Emirates, the friend suggests. Nope. Dad’s dead.
But later, “Doctor” Faris hears a confession from his late mother’s sister, Aunt Shushu (Badria Tolba). The father he never met “isn’t dead.” His mom only told him that as the final lie in a long-running effort to “shame” the man who never supported them.
There’s nothing for it but for Faris to fly to Abu Dhabi and find his father, based on sketchy instructions the flaky aunt passes on. And when those fail, there’s nothing for it but Aunt Shushu to fly over and “help.”
There is barely a laugh in a whole mistaken for a “real” doctor and expert on “The Common Arab Market” idea (Doctor Faris decides to LOUDLY wing it when asked for a “presentation”) that begins with an airport limo pickup and ends with Faris kicked out of an out-of-his-league luxury hotel.
He’s always griping “What Indian film is this?” as if his comic complications could only come from the country whose comedies most easily translate for the Arab world.
The search has a few “Around the World with Netflix” examples of what passes for comedy in Egypt and the Arabic.Middkw East m. One possible prospect for the long lost Dad lists his wives, one of whom is Chinese.
“When you married the China woman, did you BREAK her by accident?”
Aunt Shushu just howls at her own knee-slapper.
I got a little chuckle out of the “Beverly Hillbillies” third act, when they’ve finally located the rich man and proceed to upset his posh lifestyle with their modest, working poor ways. Aunty is “corrupting” and teaching lost-dad’s daughters how to properly pick, court and marry a man, when their father would rather do the picking for them.
Much ululating and laughing ensues at the old fashionwd old man’s expense.
There isn’t enough comedy that translates and travels in this Egyptian effort. But its general lightheartedness sets you up to be pleasantly surprised with the occasional out-of-nowhere giggle.
Cast: Habib Ghuloom, Issa Arab and Badria Tolba
Credits: Scripted and directed by Nasser Al Tamimi. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:20