Religious humour is always treacherous ground – half of the audience will be extremely offended and the other half are heathens who will just laugh and get over it.
But writer David Baddiel doesn’t seem to give a flying falafel about offending anyone and goes right for the funnybone. For the majority of this film, his aim is dead on.
In The Infidel, Omid Djalili stars in his first leading role as Mahmud Nasir, a not-so-strict Muslim whose penchant for yelling at cabbies gets him in a rift with Jewish American driver Lenny (Richard Schiff). But when Mahmud finds out that not only is he adopted but his parents were Jews, he finds Lenny to be an unlikely friend and mentor.
Unfortunately, Mahmud’s son breaks the news that his girlfriend’s new stepfather is a Islamist extremist and he will need the nutbag’s blessing in order to marry her. Just what you need. So while trying to pretend to be a good Muslim, Mahmud takes lessons from Lenny on how to be a good Jew from the Woody Allen school of Judaism.
Though we know him mostly for stand up comedy, Omid fares quite well on the big screen but at times he annoys us by dipping back into a distracting onstage persona. Richard Schiff is the real prize though and brings a lot of funny to the table; a surprising choice of role for the former West Wing star. There are also a number of enjoyable little cameos from Miranda Hart, Paul Kaye, Matt Lucas and David Schneider who really flesh out the Britishness of the comedy.
Some people may squirm a little at the racial humour but it’s 90% goodness and 10% ‘Ooooh, can they say that?’ Baddiel’s script touches on genuine emotion, slapstick and even a dream sequence – it doesn’t always come together neatly but it’s a good effort for a first attempt.
It’s a fun, easy comedy whose ultimate message of acceptance is predictable and schmaltzy but you’ll be laughing regardless.