The Reluctant Infidel
- Director:Josh Appignanesi
- Cast:Omid Djalili, Matt Lucas, Yigal Naor, Archie Panjabi, Richard Schiff
- Release Date:September 16, 2010
- Running time:100 minutes
- Film Worth:$13.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Often uproariously funny, this cross-cultural comedy brims with sharp dialogue and its ideas are sensitive and intelligent without being heavy-handed.
The beauty of this comedy is that it takes a rather farcical premise, and then plays it more or less straight, thus enabling us to suspend our disbelief. It creates a microcosm of heightened reality, but reality nonetheless. The result is very enjoyable, culturally literate, and often uproariously funny.
The premise is that a Muslim Londoner finds out to his horror that he was actually born Jewish (and adopted out at the age of two weeks). Or, to put it another way, East End cabbie Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili) is really Solly Shimshillewitz.
Omid Djalili is marvellous in the role: he's a natural comedian who puts us in mind of Alexei Sayle both physically and in terms of sheer comic presence. Confusion abounds and compounds as Mahmud conceals his real identity from family and workmates, though not from his previously estranged neighbour, Lenny Goldberg (Richard Schiff). Mahmud embarks on a crash course in what it is to be Jewish, elements of which include mastering the correct shrug and reading both Portnoy's Complaint and a textbook on serious illnesses. Then there's the little matter of Mahmud's son's impending marriage. The prospective father-in-law is a rabid fundamentalist whose probable reaction - were he to discover that Mahmud is really Solly - doesn't bear thinking about.
The Reluctant Infidel is brimming with sharp dialogue ("Moderation is a good thing in moderation") and its ideas are benign without being too heavy-handed. It's unpredictable and intelligent enough for the odd corny moment to be forgivable, and it plays with stereotypes while acknowledging their irrationality. (There's a reference to Buddhist Jews, for example: they're the ones who "give away their possessions but keep the receipts"). Recommended.