Meet Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili of Sex and the City 2), loving husband, doting father and something of a “relaxed” Muslim. He may not be the most observant, but in his heart he is a true Muslim. After his mother’s death, Mahmud finds his birth certificate, which reveals that he was adopted at birth and… he’s Jewish, with the real name of Solly Shimshillewitz!
As Mahmud tumbles headlong into a full-scale identity crisis, the only person he can turn to is Lenny (Richard Schiff from The West Wing), a drunken Jewish cabbie. Soon Mahmud is embarking on lessons in Jewishness, starting with how to dance like Topol and the proper way to say “oy vey.” This revelation couldn’t come at a worse time, with Mahmud’s son about to marry the stepdaughter of a radical Muslim cleric. Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) and Matt Lucas (Little Britain) join the cast of this hilarious “English farce meets Woody Allen” (Ricky Gervais).
Sometimes you look at these DVD covers and just shake your head, wondering out loud things like “What the hell?” and “[insert other statement of bewilderment that is too vulgar for a family friendly site].” This is one such film, as I really had no idea what to expect from it and considering it was bundled with a series of other odd titles when it arrived on my doorstep (part of that bundle was The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia and Yes Virginia, which by themselves are fine but when you find all three of these titles in one padded envelope, you begin to wonder). Still, bewilderment can lead to entertainment and in the case of this film it leads to frequent laughs, although not all of them are comfortable.
It’s easy to tell what kind of shock value the director was going for with this film. I mean just look at that synopsis—it’s basically tossing copious amounts of fuel into an already raging fire, but considering it’s done with such humor it’s probably one of the most comfortable ways to get into the issue (assuming you can laugh at it—if not then I recommend staying far away from this). It’s definitely not a story that’s meant to be taken completely seriously but at the same time there is a lot to learn from the film (mainly just tolerance, but hey…at least it’s something). It’s kind of the same level of education you get from watching The Colbert Report–there’s a lot of truth in what’s being said, you just have to dig beneath the layers of sarcasm and satire.
Make no mistake about it—this film is definitely not subtle. In fact many would say it’s completely tactless, but that’s really the kind of humor I like…stuff that’s just brutally honest and in your face. It’s probably a reason why I enjoy watching The Office so much—I enjoy the uncomfortable and uneasiness that comes from some of the humor delivered on that show. So it’s no real surprise I settled in quite nicely with this one, even as it pulled out some jokes and situations that can only be described as ridiculous. In the end the films not necessarily mocking either religion or its beliefs so much as it’s attempting to nail down how ridiculous the followers of the religions can be. The film also paints a pretty strong picture of just how similar both Jews and Muslims are.
Overall it’s a film worth a Rental if only for the unique idea and premise. It isn’t executed as brilliantly as it could have been and it relied a bit too much on one-liners rather than more gradual and natural humor, but overall it’s still worth checking out just for how much truth is packed in behind the satire.
New Video brings The Infidel to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks rather simplistic. Video(1:78.1) and audio (DD2.0) are a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a newly produced film. Extras include:
Audio Commentary with Director Josh Appiganesi, Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff, and writer David Baddiel
Interviews with the Cast and Director
THE INFIDEL Blog
Cast Gag Reel and Talk
As you can see there are actually quite a few nice extras here to check out, notably the commentary track with the director and actors of the film. Pile on top of that additional interviews as well as the always-required gag reel and you get a disc that’s Recommended.
The Infidel is now available on DVD.