Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Movie Log: Ghost Town

My current earworm: dis town is coming like a ghost town. It has nothing at all to do with the movie, and I can't even remember what reggae song it came from -- Google, hear my plea! Aha! I think it's the Specials -- but it's stuck in my head, and I remembered it because of this movie, so I'll pass it along to your head in hopes that helps.

So. Ghost Town. A Ricky Gervais vehicle, evidently not as successful in its first week as its makers had intended. I'd taken a day off on Friday (just because) and so The Wife and I had a middle-of-the-day "date" while the kids were in school, to see this movie and go out to lunch. It does have the requisite high concept, and follows the precise arc required for a commercial movie these days, but manages to carve out a space for itself through clever dialogue and (particularly) Gervais.

Gervais is a British dentist now living in New York, and a confirmed misanthrope. His job means that most of the people he deals with on a daily basis can't speak to him, and he prefers it that way. He's not a horrible man, but he is a prickly jerk, and there's no reason for him to change. But then he goes into the hospital for a colonoscopy -- and has complete anesthesia, since he says there's no way he's going to be awake while they do that -- and comes out of it the day afterward with a clean bill of health and the ability to see ghosts. (It turns out, a bit later, that he died for seven minutes during the procedure, which is evidently what triggered the ghost-seeing.)

New York is full of ghosts, all people who left something undone, and once they realize Gervais can see him, they besiege him with their demands. (Well, they besiege him in a quiet, respectful way, and are easily driven away when the plot requires it.) The lead ghost is played by Greg Kinnear, whose widow, Tea Leoni, lives downstairs from Gervais.

Kinnear thinks he needs to stop Leoni from marrying her new boyfriend, and tells Gervais that he can keep all of the other ghosts away if Gervais helps him. Gervais doesn't want to help anyone, and has a bad relationship with Leoni to the extent that he even knows she exists, but he finally agrees.

Gervais of course soon falls in love with Leoni -- can you blame him? -- and she comes to first stand him, then like him, and then, maybe, even care for him. But then the plot engines surge onward, into crises both false and real, and the inevitable significant montage. (Parenthetically, do you know the difference between sentiment and true emotion? Sentiment is cheap and tawdry and only affects those idiots. True emotion comes from the deep wellsprings of character and makes me mist up. I'm not going to tell you which description pertains to Ghost Town's significant montage, but it might blow my cover as a tough guy.)

Ghost Town is a romantic comedy, and I wouldn't dream of giving away the ending, but...you pretty much know what it is already, right? (One of the main reasons of going to a movie like this is to get that ending, as long as it's earned.)

I found Ghost Town very funny and quite charming; Gervais in particular is at least amusing every second he's on screen. And Kinnear is a good and subtle actor, though he does seem to play basically the same character all of the time now. Ghost Town doesn't seem to be doing a lot of business out in theaters, which is a shame -- it's a standard Hollywood entertainment, but it does everything right and is a fine example of its genre.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Movie Log: Mostly Martha

I never do things the easy way, so instead of seeing the American movie No Reservations (which apparently is decent), I tracked down the German movie it was a remake of, Mostly Martha.

The plot is familiar from the ads for the newer movie: Martha Klein is the chef at a fancy Hamburg restaurant, entirely focused on cooking to the exclusion of everything else in her life. (The restaurant's owner, Frida, even has ordered Martha to see a therapist, but Martha spends that time talking about food.) But then her sister dies in a car wreck on the way to visit her, and Martha's eight-year-old niece Lina, herself damaged by her mother's death, is left in Martha's care.

Frida, trying to help, hires another chef to help out Martha. (The kitchen may already be underhanded, and one of Martha's assistants is going out on maternity leave -- so this isn't entirely about Martha and Lina.) The new chef is Mario, a only mildly stereotypical Italian, who says he greatly admires Martha's cooking. She, of course, reacts as if he's her replacement, and goes frosty and reserved.

And then...well, the disc I had from Netflix was scratched, so I lost about ten minutes of the movie in the middle. But I suspect everyone can guess how this ends -- with a new family forming, and everybody becoming a bit happier and more human.

I hesitate to make a critical judgement on a movie that was missing its middle, so I won't. I enjoyed what I saw of Mostly Martha, and I expect the movie without missing pieces was even better than the way I saw it. (And now The Wife and I are contemplating seeing No Reservations to see how it measures up.)

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/27

Since I review books -- whatever I feel like here and various graphic novels and manga for ComicMix -- I get books to review in the mail. (It's what they call a virtuous circle.) But I do feel a bit guilty, since there's no way I could review everything I see in the mail. What I can do, though, is note everything that comes in, and say a little bit about it here. And so I do, every week.

This week, the mailbag brought me:

Neil Gaiman's new novel for young readers, The Graveyard Book. I have theories about many writers -- usually frivolous ones, based on slight evidence -- and my theory about Gaiman is that he gets bored easily. That comes from my observation, around 2002 or so, that every single Neil Gaiman novel was (reasonably) described by its publisher as the first something -- Good Omens was his first novel, Neverwhere his first solo, Stardust his first not based on something else, American Gods his first novel written solo as a novel to begin with, Coraline his first YA, Anansi Boys his first sequel (sort-of), and InterWorld his first co-written YA. Add onto that all of his film and comics work, and Gaiman looks like a guy who keeps himself interested by doing very different things regularly. Whether that's true or not, he's managed the difficult feat of building a devoted audience who will follow him no matter what he does (really, this is astonishing in publishing) and who does a lot of interesting, different stuff. I read one chapter of Graveyard Book as a story in the anthology Wizards a year or so back, and didn't think it entirely worked all by itself. But I expect to read this book as soon as possible, and I hope to love it. The Graveyard Book will be published by HarperCollins in October.

David Marusek -- author of the excellent but slightly flawed novel Counting Heads, which was also briefly famous as the target of David Itzkoff's first misguided SF review for The New York Times Book Review -- was also one of the best new short story writers of the '90s, with stories like "The Wedding Album," "We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy," and "Getting to Know You." Subterranean Press collected his stories into a nice, expensive hardcover last year, under the title Getting to Know You, but I know that was too rich for my blood, so it may have been rich for yours as well. Del Rey is remedying that situation now, with a trade paperback edition of Getting to Know You coming on December 30th. You might say that, if you've been reading the various "Best of the Year" collections, you've already seen most of all of these stories. That may be true, but you don't have them all together in one book, do you? And they're certainly worth it.

Margo Lanagan has been writing tough, uncompromising stories for young readers for many years; they've been collected in the massively acclaimed books Black Juice, White Time, and Red Spikes (which I had mixed feelings about; probably because I read it too quickly). And now -- possibly for the first time; certainly for the first time that I know about -- she's written a novel. Tender Morsels, like so many of Lanagan's stories, is about a young woman damaged by the world -- a teenager with a baby daughter and an abusive father, who has been given the gift to flee the harsh real world into an imagined heaven where nothing bad will ever happen. Of course she can't stay there forever, of there would be no story; Tender Morsels seems to be the story of the collision of those two worlds (or, more broadly, of the collision of dreams with reality). Knopf will publish it on October 14th, and I expect it will be one of the major YA novels of the year.

Ghost Radio is the first novel of Leopoldo Gout, of whom I hadn't heard before this. (And I'd definitely remember that name.) The biography in the book describes him as a producer, director, graphic novelist, writer, and composer -- I'm surprised a guy that busy found time to sit down and write a whole book. Ghost Radio is the story of a late-night Mexican call-in radio show about supernatural creatures, and how its host (Joaquin) deals with sudden fame and the dark secrets of his past. (Does anyone else think it sound an awful lot like the male, "mainstream" version of Kitty and the Midnight Hour?) Ghost Radio will be published by William Morrow on October 14th, in hardcover.

I saw a few comics collections this week, including another one of those packages from Aurora (the only company currently sending me yaoi, for good or ill). I don't have much to say about any of these, so let me just bullet them:
  • Kiss All The Boys, Vol. 3 by Shiuko Kano, from Aurora's Deux imprint for yaoi, finishes up the story, with lots and lots of cute boys having sex with each other, for the enjoyment of Japanese young women.
  • Mister Mistress, Vol. 2 is by Rize Shinba, but otherwise is much the same, only the seductive guy in this one is an incubus.
  • Oh, My God! Vol. 2 probably has less explicit sex -- it's rated for older teen rather than "mature," like the two books above -- but it's another yaoi story, this time by Natsuho Shino.
  • And Hitohira, Vol. 1 is a more normal manga story, by Idumi Kirihara, about a timid freshman girl who is forced to join the drama club.
  • Top Shelf Productions sent me their 2008 Seasonal Sampler -- and they'll throw it in for a penny if you buy books from their sale, as well.
  • And Afro Samurai, Vol. 1 -- a dark, bloody manga series by Takashi Okazaki that was the basis of the animated series, and which I recently reviewed for ComicMix -- has been published by Tor/Seven Seas.
Kage Baker's new novel, The House of the Stag -- which I also might have mentioned before -- has also just been published, by Tor in hardcover. It's set in the same world as her novel The Anvil of the World, which I quite liked. (And so this is yet another book I'd like to read -- onto the pile it goes.)

From a small regional press -- my region, to be precise: the NYC-Jersey-Philly corridor -- called PS Books comes a rock 'n roll novel called Broad Street by Christine Weiser. It looks semi-autobiographical, since it's by a female Philly rocker and about one, and Weiser is the copublisher of Philadelphia Stories magazine, of which PS Books is an offshoot (and Broad Street is their first publication). On the positive side, I love the cover, which is bright and eye-catching and shows exactly what the book is about. This one isn't too long, so I might find time to get to it soon.

Last this week is Jo Walton's Half a Crown, the third (and aparrently last) in the powerful alternate history series that includes Farthing and Ha'penny. This one jumps quite a bit forward in time; it's set in 1960. But it again follows two storylines, one in first person from the POV of a young woman and the other in tight third following former police detective Carmichael, now head of Britain's secret police, the Watch. Half a Crown will be published in October by Tor, and this one I have to make time for. (Of course, I can generally read two, possibly three novels in a week -- and I got six this week that I'd be interested in reading if I can get to them.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Movie Log: The Missionary

I've spent the last twenty-five years vaguely intending to see The Missionary someday (and A Private Function at approximately the same time), but that someday finally came last week.

The Missionary was one of the flurry of movies put out by George Harrison's production company Handmade Films in the early '80s. Handmade was formed to finance Monty Python's The Life of Brian when EMI pulled out, and Handmade's roster of films do have a decided Pythonian bent. The Missionary was early in their string, before the body blows of Shanghai Surprise and Nuns on the Run, when Handmade was a respectable, even highbrow, British film outfit.

Michael Palin is Rev. Charles Fortescue, an Anglican priest returning from a ten-year mission somewhere in Africa to 1906 London and hoping to get a nice village parish somewhere so he can marry his dim but frightfully organized fiancee Deborah (Phoebe Nicholls). Unfortunately, the Bishop instead gives him another mission: bringing the gospel to the "fallen women" of London.

Fortescue, with the financial aid of the randy and bored Lady Isabel Ames (Maggie Smith), sets up his mission, and attracts many young women of negotiable virtue via the unlikely stratagem of being friendly, non-judgmental, and sexually available. (Palin plays this a bit bashful, as if he's too British to object to a lady's request -- though he did object to Lady Isabel for quite a while.) As others have noted, the entire movie is essentially the Castle Anthrax bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail writ large, with a "aren't those religious people so hypocritical" subtext.

The plot doesn't entirely make sense, and wanders off in several directions somewhat aimlessly, though The Missionary maintains an even tone, which goes a long way to sell all of the odd and unlikely moments. However, the ending just collapses into a unearned, and hasty, happy ending that really doesn't follow from the immediately previous events. This many years later, I have no idea if the problems were funding, script, or editing -- or maybe all three -- but something went wrong, and the movie ends with a muffled, unfortunate thud.

I'll also note that the current DVD has a rotten old pan-and-scan transfer which is obnoxiously noticeable in several scenes. I don't expect this minor middle-aged movie is going to get a new transfer any time soon, but it's still a shame to see any movie so shabbily treated.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Move Log: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is a Wes Anderson movie, which means that it's odd. (It also means that Bill Murray will probably be involved somehow, and, as you can see, Murray plays the title character, a Couseau-esque documentarian and sea explorer.)

Life Aquatic has an odd, lumpy shape and never hits a consistent rhythm -- I'm not saying that it wanted to have a smooth shape or a rhythm, though, since it floats serenely along, like some bizarre denizen of the deep ocean, perfectly content to be what it is. Murray is at the center, and everything else revolves around him. It's all basically a comedy, though there's a lot of strife, danger, and real loss along the way.

It's the kind of movie that's best explained by listing the people in it, so...
  • Anjelica Houston is Zissou's wife, Eleanor, whose rich parents originally bankrolled their expeditions and who, in what seems like a running joke, is always described as the brains of Team Zissou
  • Jeff Goldblum is Zissou's greatest rival (and Eleanor's ex-husband), Alistair Hennessey
  • Willem Defoe is Klaus Daimler, now Zissou's right-hand man (after his long-time best friend was eaten by a "jaguar shark" on his last outing)
  • Owen Wilson is Ned Plimpton (aka Kingsley Zissou), who may be Zissou's long-lost illegitimate son, and who definitely is a Southern airline pilot and new member of Team Zissou
  • Michael Gambon is Zissou's agent, Oseary Drakoulias (whose very name seems like a deeply inside joke that I didn't catch)
  • and Cate Blanchett is the pregnant British journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson, who is probably going to write a cover story for a National Geographic-esque magazine on Zissou, but may turn it into a hatchet piece along the way (and who is also falling in love with Ned)
I didn't mention the pirates, which are thrown in for spice later in the film than you'd expect, and a series of stop-motion animated fish, all of which are too colorful and bizarre to be real.

In the end, the best was to describe The Life Aquatic is the way I did up top: it's a Wes Anderson film. If you've enjoyed his other pictures, you'll probably like this one. But if "indy"-style filmmaking annoys you, stay far away.

Banned Books Week

In case you were unaware, today begins Banned Books Week. (Which should probably be named Anti-Banned Books Week, but leave that aside for now.) Details are on the ALA's website, including all sorts of events.

If you can't make it to an event, but still want to celebrate, one of the best ways is to read a Banned Book -- since that's precisely what the people banning books want to stop. And so, below, I've popped in a list (from that very website) of the most challenged titles from last year. It's a good place to start.

1. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
3. Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
4. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
7. TTYL by Lauren Myracle
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
9. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Throwing to ComicMix Twice More

I missed linking to my most recent two ComicMix posts on their day-of-posting, but here I am, just a little tardy:
Next week, I think you folks will see a Western and the usual manga on Friday, but I'm not sure what (if anything) else.

Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins

Collins is the author of The Trouble With Tom (about the posthumous adventures of Tom Paine's corpse and thoughts) and of Sixpence House (about moving from the US to Hay-on-Wye), among others. And I think he's becoming one of my favorite contemporary non-fiction writers: he has a mania for research, an ear for carefully precise and true sentences, and a specific, particular perspective on all that he writes about.

Not Even Wrong is subtitled "Adventures in Autism," and it has two main strands: first is the realization of Collins and his wife Jennifer that their son Morgan is autistic, and of their struggles to understand what that means and what they can do about it. The other side of the book is Collins's reaction to that diagnosis, and it's a typical one for Collins: he dives into the literature of autism, from Peter the Wild Boy of eighteenth century Hanover to the frauds of Bruno Bettelheim to the experts of today. It's a shock to realize how young the study of the autism spectrum is: Asperger himself worked just before WWII (and his work was forgotten, or untranslated into English, for decades), and many of the major "early" researchers in English are still alive and active.

Collins is a thoughtful writer, good at digging up original sources and doing research on site as well as strong in synthesis and just plain putting words into a pleasing order. He's worth reading no matter what he's writing about, because the fact that he thinks this subject is worth his time is in itself a validation of the topic. I will admit to being doubly interested in this book, though: as I said when I read Sixpence House, Collins seems to be nearly exactly my age, and his first son Morgan is close to the age of my first son (whom I've been calling Thing 1 here). Morgan, as Collins learns in this book, is autistic. And my older son also falls somewhere on that spectrum, with something milder that's been variously diagnosed as Asperger's, ADHD, and the shrugging catch-all PDD-NOS. I'm not equating the two at all, but obviously I have a strong interest these days in stories of other parents dealing with difficult boys who live in their own worlds.

Not Even Wrong is not only a book for men like Collins and myself, for men trying to understand their sons. It's a book for anyone who wonders how we communicate with each other, how the brain works and doesn't work, and what we've learned. And Collins, who has a knack for digging up obscure historical information, is just the one to tell this story.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Movie Log: Married Life

Married Life is a stylized, retro movie that aims for Big Truths, but doesn't quite close the deal. It's heavily narrated by Pierce Brosnan (in character), and Brosnan tells us what to think, what to expect, and what we're about to see.

It's not nearly as inventive and thought-provoking as it wants to be, and it ends up falling far short of the old noirs that are its inspiration. It's not a bad movie -- it's worth seeing for the performances and as an interesting failure -- but its twists aren't as unique and surprising as it seems to think they are.

Married Life is the story of a double love triangle in 1949, cleverly depicted on the DVD cover. Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson are a long-time married couple; they have at least one son (grown up, married, with a young child of his own) and Cooper works at some unspecified but important office job in whatever city this is. Cooper is also having an affair with young Rachel McAdams, and he wants to leave his wife for her...but he can't stand to see his wife hurt, so he decides to kill her instead. (This could be exciting, but it doesn't happen until halfway through the movie.)

Brosnan is Cooper's bachelor friend, a man who has never been ready to be tied down by a woman. And so of course he falls for McAdams as well, and starts trying to maneuver events so that Cooper doesn't kills Clarkson and so that he can end up with McAdams. The movie, then, is the story of these people's relationships over the course of a month or so, as they all pursue their own romantic stratagems and feints.

There is a twist at the end, but not a particularly shocking one; as I said, any genre director handed this project in 1949 would have made a stronger movie of it. Again, Married Life is a pleasant misfire; the ending falls quite flat. If you don't go into it expecting greatness, though, you may be reasonably happy with it.

More Commercial Messages

Oops, I missed one. Amazon is also excited about the fall TV season, and is selling downloads of many shows right now!

I don't watch much TV -- especially fiction TV -- these days, and I have a DVR (which means I can save those TV shows myself for free, if I wanted to), so this service does not speak to me very strongly. But Amazon has got movies, too, and that could be good for people who like watching movies on their computer. (I've done it on my laptop on business trips, which was better than I expected, but I don't see why I'd bother at home, when a real TV is available.)

(Oops, I see from the banner that, through some technical whoozits that I won't be able to explain to you, Amazon can actually download its videos on demand right to a TiVo DVR. So it's more convenient than I thought it was.)

Anyway, here's another banner. Click this one if you want to buy yourself some downloadable video. I hear the Chuck is particularly good right now.

Today's Commercial Message from Amazon

Amazon would really, really like me to encourage people to sign up for Amazon Prime -- the program that gives unlimited two-day shipping. (I don't buy enough from Amazon to make it worthwhile for me, personally, so I can't speak to how much it costs or how useful the benefit really is. But Amazon is very hot on it right now.)

Anyway, have a banner!

Click on it if you want to know more, If not, I think there's a quote immediately below this...

Quote of the Week

"Most people seem to take pleasure in feeling superior to someone. I'm not like that, which pleases me because it makes me feel superior."
- Steven Brust, Jhegaala, p.251

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie Log: Then She Found Me

As I try to catch back up on the movies I've seen recently, I find I remember some of them better than others. Then She Found Me, for example, is mostly a blur.

It's directed by Helen Hunt from a script she co-wrote based on an Elinor Lipman novel, and Hunt also stars (looking thin, wan, and old -- not what you'd expect a director to do for herself) as a NYC schoolteacher whose new husband (Matthew Broderick) turns out to be an sadly overgrown boy who runs away from her.

The newly divorced father of one of her students -- Colin Firth -- is interested in her, so the two of them dance around the fact that it's really much too soon for both of them, and they both know that.

And then Bette Midler sashays in, as Hunt's long-lost birthmother, who is also a very Midleresque local talk-show host.

Oh, and it's all wrapped up in Hunt's desire both to have a child -- which has to be hers biologically -- and to know what its like to be a "real" biological child, not adopted. (Since she is consumed by the fact that she herself was adopted and always has thought her brother, the "real" son, had it all better.)

There's too much plot for one movie here; it shows all the signs of being adapted from a novel by someone who loved that novel too much, and couldn't bear to get rid of any of the best parts. Then She Found Me would have been better served jettisoning some of the ungainly bits and streamlining itself. It's a pleasant movie with solid performances, but it feels like the highlights reel of a film that's several hours longer.

Oddly, I've now seen Colin Firth in a romantic comedy about schoolteachers (this and Fever Pitch) twice in a few months. Seems an odd niche.

If you like the performers, you'll enjoy Then She Found Me. And if you don't expect too much, you won't be disappointed -- it's a good movie, but not much more than that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still on the Dark Side

One year ago today, I started my new job as a Marketing Manager...which makes this, I guess, my Wiley-versary.

I've been in marketing one whole year, and I still haven't grown horns. Come to think of it, nobody's taught me the secret handshake or invited me to join the world-wrecker club, either. (Perhaps I've been blackballed?) That's terribly discouraging.

But the job itself has been great, and I'm coming to enjoy accounting books. (OK, that might be a slight overstatement.) I've always liked making books...but I think I've always liked getting books to readers even more.

Movie Log: The Savages

I saw The Savages in large part because the preview made it look enough like a comedy that The Wife said, "Let's see that." I'd read some reviews, and hadn't quite decided whether I was interested, but that was fine with me.

It does have funny moments, but it's not essentially a comedy, in case you've seen the same preview. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play middle-aged siblings -- Wendy and Jon Savage -- who have to care for their aged and deteriorating father Lenny (played by Peter Bosco) after Lenny's girlfriend dies and her kids kick Lenny out of her house in a sub-baked western retirement community.

All head back to Buffalo, where Jon is a professor of drama. (Wendy is an office temp-cum-struggling playwright in New York, though she's doing well enough economically to runaway up to Buffalo for a few months and not have her apartment sealed when she returns.) Lenny goes into a nursing home, and Wendy & Jon cope.

That's the whole movie: it's about how two adult children -- and I use that oxymoronic term deliberately -- live with the knowledge that their father is much closer to death then they thought, and how they live with each other. They both do end up making changes in their lives, by the end, but those are small, reasonable changes, not the usual Hollywood "everything is different" whirlwind.

It's an easier movie to watch than I might be making it sound: it's not about death, it's about how to go on living even though there is death. And both Linney and Hoffman are excellent in it. This is what a small, script-driven movie is supposed to be like; it's a gem.

A Not-At-All Snarky Question

Hasn't Jonathan McCalmont quit blogging and gone home at least once already?

Ah, yes. He did.

I wonder if this time will stick?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Movie Log: Outsourced

I often say that I like romantic comedies, but what passes for a Hollywood romantic comedy is usually utter crap. What I mean is that I like movies like Outsourced -- only mildly manipulative, and with reasonable facsimiles of human emotion and motivation driving the plot.

Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) is a mid-level worker bee in the Seattle call center of a tchotchke catalog when he gets the bad news: his entire department is being outsourced to India. The only bit of good news: he gets to train the new staff, and then his weasely boss, Dave (Matt Smith) will transfer him to a new, stable job back in the US.

The movie doesn't waste much time on this, which is smart -- it's the premise, and we knew that's what it was about from the poster. Todd lands in a small Indian city -- picturesque and backwards as the places cosmopolitans like Todd end up in to learn better always are -- and begins training both the new local head of the call center, Purohit (Asif Basra) and the rest of the staff.

The actual romance plot -- with Asha (Ayesha Dharker) -- takes a long time to get started, so Outsourced seems more like a pleasant fish-out-of-water comedy for most of its length. It does have several of the obvious jokes -- diarrhea more than once -- but isn't too obvious about them.

Outsourced is a nice movie that doesn't try too hard; it might annoy viewers from more cosmopolitan parts of India (and India's immense, so it certainly has tens of millions of people more cosmopolitan than me), but otherwise it's just the thing for a night when you want to see a movie about people who are mostly positive and adult.