The Infidel review

Djalili plays Mahmud Nasir, a Muslim who discovers after his mother’s death that he was adopted, and was born a Jew. His life in turmoil, he turns to Lenny, an alcoholic American-Jewish taxi driver, who agrees to teach him how to be Jewish.

There is a scene near the beginning where Nasir, his mind reeling after the dramatic discovery that his heritage is not all he believed it to be, searches the word "Jew" online. The screen shows a large number of websites, some shockingly anti-Semitic. Confused by what he sees, Nasir switches the computer off and stands up to make amusing faces in the mirror instead. This encapsulates this entire film: funny faces are always chosen over difficult ideas. Once you strip away the surface layer of vernacular edginess, this movie ducks controversy so often that it might as well have been about a duck that discovers he’s really a goose. For example, the fanatical Muslim cleric villain is in the end revealed as a fake, not condemned as a monstrous demagogue, so everyone saves face and everyone ends up friends.

It’s a schmaltzy cop-out, and the film isn’t funny enough to avoid the two elephants that this dumps into the room: first, that pulling the bad guy’s mask off to reveal a surprise identity hasn’t really flown as a plot device since Scooby Doo, and second, that race-relations are real and extraordinarily complex, sometimes farcical and sometimes brutally ugly, and sometimes both at the same time, and in the real world there are no such easy fixes. In summary: the plot doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, nobody’s particularly out of their comfort zones, and it’s not even particularly funny. There’s a lot of Yiddish in it, so I’ll put it this way: The Infidel’s got no chutzpah.
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SECOND OPINION | Adam Stephen Kelly ???? 
Having attended the world premiere, I can say that I honestly found the film to be utterly hilarious, and there wasn't anyone in the house who left with a straight face. David Baddiel's script is cleverly written and full of religious witticisms that are uproariously funny. Omid Djalili's performance proves without a doubt that he can carry a leading role in a feature-length comedy with ease — it shows that he isn't just good for stand-up or playing the Arab stereotype in the background, he's a genuine, multi-talented comic performer and I greatly look forward to his next starring role. The film suffers from being a little formulaic and derivative of other comedies at times with its body swap and buddy movie themes, but it's a truly funny, feel-good time at the movies with a very brave and bold subject matter that unfortunately aims higher morally than is realistically possible in the world we live in today. The best British comedy I have seen in a long, long time and it certainly deserves a wider release in the UK. I cannot wait to see what Baddiel pens next.

Official Site
The Infidel at IMDb

Read our EXCLUSIVE interview with The Infidel writer David Baddiel

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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