When I watched this film I wonder if a story like this could actually come out from Singapore's film industry. After all, we're one multi-racial and multi-religious melting pot so the context of having such characters here isn't that far fetched, and to have this screened here (albeit under an M18 rating), does say something. Moreover, it's a great film speaking up against religious fanaticism, and aimed its sights well at false prophets who adopt a holier than thou attitude in hoodwinking their followers.
Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili) and his family are a typical moderate Muslim family, with Mahmud himself living the rather carefree life that had just overcome the death of his mom. His son Rashid (Amit Shah) announces that his intended fiancee and wife to be Uzma (Soraya Radford) will soon be getting a new stepdad, and as it turns out permission for her hand in marriage will have to be sought from none other than Arshad El Masri (Yigal Naor), a firebrand Pakistani cleric infamous for his anti-Western tirades. To Mahmud, this spells trouble to be associated with such a negative, high profile figure, but for the love of his son, have to put up his best behaviour when this international figure comes for a visit to discuss marriage. Not to mention the stress of having to portray himself as a devout Muslim man!
And to make matters worse, like the trailer already suggested at length, Mahmud discovers while clearing up his mom's place that he's adopted, and traces his lineage to be actually that of a Jew. A major identity crisis ensues because of his son's future happiness, and of course him having to rediscover and seek out the truth about his roots. With his birth father in critical health in the hospital and at the insistence of a rabbi (Matt Lucas), Mahmud has to reconnect with his Jewish roots in order to stand a whiff of a chance to talk to a man on his deathbed. Thus begins a comedy of errors arising from a clash of obvious cultures and attitudes when Mahmud has to reconcile with a one-time enemy Lenny Goldberg (Richard Schiff), in order to learn the Jewish customs and culture in double quick time.
There are plenty of jokes here that treaded the fine line of being racist, and I mean a very fine line. But as the movie put it across, it isn't racist if the one telling it is actually highlighting and poking fun at one's own race, which leaves some food for deeper thought. So we have a barrage of comical situations, some brilliantly crafted and full of wit, while others fell flat and came across as quite distastefully done, but nonetheless there were more positive rip-roaring moments than not, which I feel only the relatively more uptight folks will find additional reasons not to let loose and enjoy the film as it is.
More importantly though, beyond the laughter, is its theme of family and friendship that transcends how we look and who we are on the surface, segregated and branded by our name, or religion, or culture, which should never be the case. Sure we can have the freedom to believe in what we want, but with that also come tolerance for that of others, and a reminder never to judge others or compare just because we're different at that level, but fundamentally we belong to the same species inhabiting the same shared earth, and life will be all the more harmonious should we not try to impose bigoted thoughts on others.
While the ending may seem a little bit stretched, it did work as intended, and provided a fitting finale with moderate views triumphing over extremism. Both Omid Djalili and Richard Schiff put up fine performances and share excellent chemistry together as enemies turned friends, with their scenes together being some of the best be it focused on physical comedy, or through that rapid fire exchange of insults. Highly recommended for its relevance in our day and age for the messages it sets out to counsel.