The Infidel – A Review

I went to see The Infidel at the Swiss Cottage Odeon last night, and while buying my £26 popcorn I looked around me, only to see before me what I felt was probably going to be the point of the film; the bringing together of communities (namely Jewish, Muslim, and NOTAs like myself) in the name of humour; the opportunity to be in the same room while we all laugh at our own stereotypes.

I was half right on this point at least in that those communities were in the same room, but where were the laughs?

The film turns out to be a crass venting of offensive terms that have found a context within where no offense can be taken.The forum for laughing at ourselves turns out to be more like a compulsion to say naughty things, or how Bart, from The Simpsons, expressed it, trapped on an island with his peers deciding on the rules now that there are no adults around: “there will be swearing, damn hell ass swearing”.

Whereas Bart is an 8-year-old boy, the three main writers of the film, one of which is David Baddiel, are fully grown and will subsequently come across, judging from this effort, as playground comedians with gags in their mouths (I’m sure some will blame “political correctness gone mad” but actually comedy timing is essential for taboo-busting). Perhaps those gags should stay put, not simply for taste, but for the sake of humour itself.

One, at different times, can not be sure whether we have the acting (which is by and large awful, with uncomfortable pauses that do nothing to add to the narrative) to blame, or the writing (which we can blame the poor jokes on, the hard to follow narrative, and irrelevent scenes on; watching their work being acted out makes you wonder where the editor of the script). Certainly it isn’t the performance by Omid Djalili that lets the film down for he was perfectly fine, and gives some of the lame scripting life with his comic gestures and odd body.

Two scenes in the film really destroyed it for me; firstly the whole episode of his Father. Of course to know that there is a real Dad out there is vital for the plot, but the pursuit (and subsequent failure ) of a visit is confusing, unrealistic and utterly pointless. Not to mention time consuming, and at two hours+ this bit of the film could easily of been cut to provide viewers some more time to burn their tickets at the end and lament the loss of this time which they never claim back.

The second destructive scene for me was the conclusive scene (lets ignore the stupidity of the new romantic/islamist relationship which comes to fore and destroys Wahabism forever – perhaps our only hope of combating global terror today is proving that Bin Laden was a “paki-bashing” fifth Beatle with a history of porn and rape charges). One of the “morals” (sorry for the bunny rabbit ears, as Mahmud Nasir uses throughout the film with little comic effect) was to rightly show that true Islam is not the sum of “fatty fatwa faces”. But if for the dignity of Islam you want to demonstrate that moderate Islam knows best, and not to prove the far right in Islam correct when they say, as Arshad Al-Masri – the fanatic cleric with a twitching eye – did that moderate Islam must be in moderation (with an evil grin), you had better have a clean record. Now Nasir proves that even Al-Masri has a dodgy past, but this does not save Islam from the fascists, it shows that nobody’s perfect. But worryingly and lazily, it does little to counter the charge by genuine Islamofascists that they are the true expression of Islam. A moral is left outstanding in place of a cheap gag that a loudmouth anti-Semitic cleric is actually a former racist Mancunian (imagine if you will a successful attempt to congregate Palestinians and Israelis from either side of the wall in one room to try and reconcile differences, and starting your peace project with well, the muzzies and the yiddies are all shit at religion aren’t they…)

Unfortunately, contrary to the hype, the film failed on laughs and it failed on morals, and will only bring together a multiculture of Baddiel film boycotts (for reasons of tase, and not PC gone limp). An animated comedy series Monkey Dust, shown on BBC2 at the start of the noughties, featured a humorous sketch where David Baddiel could do almost anything, on account of his tv work, punditry, commentary, novel writing and film producing. Sadly that joke no longer holds weight.


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