Published Aug 19, 2010Mahmud Nasir (British-Iranian stand-up comedian Omid Djalili) is a moderate Muslim living a typical British life with his wife Saamiya (Archie Punjabi), son Rashid (Amit Shah) and four-year-old daughter. Far more interested in '80s synthesizer music than religious doctrine ― allowing himself a sip of the pale ale now and then ― he's horrified to discover that his son intends to marry the daughter of fundamentalist extremist Arshad El Masri (Yigal Naor).
Further complicating his murky religious background is the discovery that he was actually adopted as a child, and to boot, his birth parents were Jewish. What unfolds is an insular comedy of religious taboos, done with the safety of equal opportunity jabbing, meaning something to either Jews or Muslims, but not likely anyone else. Think of it as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but with arguments about the Israeli-Palestine conflict instead of ad nauseam jokes about Greek stereotype.
And similar to that obnoxious Nia Vardalos comedy, The Infidel plays it safe, for the most part, creating comedy from Mahmud's nascent efforts to understand Judaism, eating Matzo Ball soup, faking Hebrew and saying inappropriate things at a bar mitzvah. The burning of a yarmulke at a Palestine rally is a little edgy, perhaps, but mostly it's sunshine and daisies, with a jab mostly at extremists of any kind.
Fortunately, Omid Djalili handles physical comedy well, making a scene where he has a file folder tug-of-war with an adoption records bureaucrat in a wheelchair quite amusing. There are a couple of gags like this that work, such as a comment from Archie Punjabi about her husband urinating in a decorative cup because he's too lazy to get up from the couch, but mostly it's blasé religious tedium.
Essentially, this is very much a film for a specific community of people that can appreciate the comedy of minor religious oversights. It's just unfortunate that there's no opportunity for anyone else to come along for the ride. (Peace Arch)