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Samy Oxyde Al Carbone: Tired, Silly Slapstick Comedy
Samy (Ramzi) is a jobless playboy, who spends his time wasting money and chasing women. Then he meets and falls for Gihan (Dorra), a hardcore social activist who regularly organises protests and despises egocentric, wealthy people like him. In order to impress her, Samy does what any man in his position would do, and pretends to be a low-maintenance, working class version of himself. While trying to woo Gihan and fit into her activist circle, Samy discovers that the land he owns is being contaminated by pollution from a nearby factory owned by Gaber (Fawzy). Karma can get you like that.
Things become even more complicated when Samy's ex-wife Haidy (Tetiana) reappears after many years only to tell him that he has a daughter called Sandy (Nasrat). Haidy is terminally ill and can’t take care of Sandy, and so Samy suddenly has the responsibility of fathering a child he’s never known of. This is, understandably, Samy’s opportunity to redeem himself and become a changed man. Queue the violins or the Rocky theme tune; both are fitting.
The film's main plot is actually split into two parts; the first is about him changing into something he's not, and the second revolves around his dealing with the responsibility of parenthood. Predictably, both stories suffer from various annoying elements. To begin with, Ramzi’s depiction of a successful womaniser is very hard to believe – the actor has pulled off the awkward, dorky roles for years, but he lacks the suave charm to convince us of his flirting skills.
Additionally, his father-daughter scenes with Nasrat are forced and seem to shove the jokes down the audience’s throats. An example of this is a when Samy and his best friend Medhat (Edward) dress up in various costumes, including Avatar characters, in an attempt to entertain his newly acquired daughter. Nasrat does her best adorable act as the charismatic young daughter, but it borders on slapstick and – again – forced.
Director Akram Farid seems to have borrowed themes from US films like Game Plan and Big Daddy, but this film lacks the charm and humour to pull it off. Essentially, this film is all about Ramzi, which is unfortunate considering that his flat portrayal of an immature man lacks the type of charisma needed with an anti-hero character like this, and fails to command the audience’s attention. His cheesy lines don’t help either. Even hardcore Ramzi fans will be disappointed, and the supporting cast fails to impress: as Samy’s best friend Medhat, Edward plays the same funny sidekick that we’ve seen him play before, while Dorra’s efforts are lacklustre as she gives a lukewarm performance with little charm.
By Egyptian standards, this comedy is weak and almost offensively silly in its use of cheap humour. This type of slapstick comedy may have worked back in the 90s, which in hindsight is still a little embarrassing if it did, but you’d think that Egyptian cinema has evolved and improved in the past two decades.
With many Americans still picking Thanksgiving turkey out of their teeth and others already embarking on Christmas shopping, Jimmy Hayward’s Thanksgiving-themed, animated comedy, Free Birds, is the first of what will almost certainly be a production line of hastily put-together films capitalising on the festive season.
Meet Reggie (Wilson); a nonconformist turkey who has always been viewed as an outsider for his ‘radical’ thinking. The idea of having himself – and the rest of his fellow-turkeys – fattened up for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities, is a notion that doesn’t sit too well with Reggie. He continuously tries to warn everyone of their imminent slaughter, but his warnings go unheeded. That is until they realise the stark reality of their situation and throw Reggie under the bus to save their own necks.
However, much to his surprise, Reggie ends up being the White House’s ‘pardoned turkey’ and is soon sent off to Camp David to live the good life; lots of TV and a great deal of junk food.
One night, he’s approached by Jake (Harrelson); a cheeky and rebellious turkey who informs him that there’s a way of travelling back in time to the very first Thanksgiving, where they can take Turkey off the menu for good.
Intrigued and fascinated by the possibility, the duo soon find themselves jumping into the secret government machine, named S.T.E.V.E (voiced by Takei), and travelling back to 1621. They quickly learn, however, that becoming ‘free birds’ is going to take some serious work.
While the idea behind Free Birds might sound solid on paper, the final result is not. Essentially, this is not a film that holds the wide appeal of the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Kids will love it, though adults will probably find the cutesy humour and inattentive storyline difficult to engage with. Moreover, the endless-parade of product placements and tiresome references to other, unquestionably better, films only serves to undermine it.
The film’s only redeeming feature lies with its two leads. Owen, in his usual carefree and offhand style, injects the character of Reggie with enough likeability, while Harrelson approaches his character with conspicuous willingness and excitement. The rest of the cast is equally deserving of praise, especially Poehler – voicing Reggie’s love interest – who brings zesty and feisty personality to her role.
Despite Free Birds’ good intentions, this underdog story – or in this case an underturkey, if you will – would have been a lot better if it spent a little bit more time in the oven.
Written and directed by the Syrian-born director, Sam Kadi, The Citizen sets out to highlight the hardships faced by Arab settlers in the US during the aftermath of 9/11. Despite appearing at several international film festivals, the film unfortunately falls short in both complexity and spirit.
After winning the green-card lottery, Lebanese immigrant, Ibrahim Jarrah (Nabawy), arrives in New York City on September 10, 2001. Determined to leave his troubling past behind, he is ready to live the American Dream.
Soon after arriving, Ibrahim checks into a Brooklyn motel where he finds himself saving a young woman from an abusive boyfriend. The girl in question is Diane (Bruckner); a pretty, young waitress who is instantly taken by the soft-spoken stranger and offers him a tour of the city as a way of saying thank you. The pair is quick to bond, but the next morning, their worlds change forever.
Almost immediately after the tragic events, Ibrahim is apprehended by US government officials and is held for questioning - for a total of six months - about his ties and connections to a mysterious cousin he mentioned on his arrival. However, with no substantial evidence, he is set free, only to face prejudices at every corner.
Painted with a soulful and a sorrowing mettle, Egyptian actor, Nabawy, proves to be a fairly likable lead. Quiet, courageous and mannerly, Ibrahim’s character is easy to connect to as a gutsy underdog who is putting everything on the line to better himself. And although his execution lacks bite and passion at times, he still manages to sustain the geniality of his character throughout. Bruckner, on the other hand, falls back on her television soap-opera experience and stands out like a sore thumb in what is generally a solemn and hushed tone.
The real issue with The Citizen, however, is that it plays out like shoddy TV-movie, especially in terms of aesthetics. The plot moves along with a sense of urgency, but is never really fleshed out and is dramatically uneven. Though the central character’s rocky road is one that any empathetic person should engage with, the audience is told how to feel and is never given the chance to recognise the wider issue of immigration and equality.
By anchoring itself so lucidly to the events of 9/11, The Citizen never really gets to fully develop; its ready-packaged message is delivered in the most inorganic of ways and ends up being conventional in its sentiments.