Four Lions: 97 Minutes of 'Too Soon' Moments
Besides doing super-fun dating stuff like going to haunted houses for Jackalope Ranch's comprehensive Halloween guide, New Times blogger Colin Lecher and fellow young journalist Jessica Testa go to the movies.
Colin: I've never felt so bad about laughing in my life. From what I understood after digging through those British accents, Four Lions was a pretty offensive movie.
Jessica: I'd say so, what with all the jihadists and explosions and awful stereotypes!
Colin: Right. There was a lot of all that going on. Except it was a comedy. And it was actually pretty damn funny. How did they pull that off?
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Jessica: I think it was successful in mixing semi-slapstick comedy and pop culture references with political satire. It was also successful in being wildly offensive -- and not in the "South Park" immature way. In a let's-mock-the-death-of-thousands way. Because by the end of the movie, it really did feel like a thousand people died. All in pretty hilarious/terrible ways.
Colin: I agree. I think it was so taboo, though, that it's hard to even explain why it's funny before people see it. This will be me later trying to tell people about it:
"So, like, there's this one part where he's talking about the Lion King, but, like, Simba's a terrorist. Funny, right? Right? Guys?"
Jessica: Yeah, there were definitely laugh-out-loud moments. I know it will get compared to "Burn After Reading," or, more lightly, "Office Space," for its offbeat, dark humor. I don't think it's like those films though. Those films are funny because people can relate to dealing with paranoid Americans or being an office dweller. People can't relate to jihadists. (Well, most people.) Like I said earlier, the pop culture references ("The Lion King," Tupac) really make for surprisingly funny moments. I knew you would appreciate the scene where two British police snipers argued about whether a wookie was a bear.
Colin: A wookie is not a bear! That was by far the most offensive part of the movie. And I think an Office Space comparison is pretty accurate, actually. A misguided guy leads a few buddies on a mission, but comes to his senses toward the end and realizes what he was doing. Just like that. Except, you know, more... uh, terrorism...
Jessica: The best character was the white, British, aspiring jihadist who bakes a Twin Towers cake and left it at a synagogue (off-screen, unfortunately) and calls himself "the most Al-Qaeda one here." His character definitely gets a majority of the laughs, but he is also a part of one of the most insightful scenes in the movie: He is on a panel in a lecture hall talking about Muslim relations and a corporate-looking, non-Muslim white guy is talking about how Muslims just want to be embraced in their community. The jihadist argues with him, spurring a college kid to stand up, rap, and set off a bomb of silly string. When the camera pans back to the panel, the suit is hiding under the table while everyone else is sitting calmly. The scene offers insight into the way people all over the world treat Muslims -- with fearful acceptance.
Colin: That was probably the most surprising thing about the movie: for all the silliness, it was scary-believable. Maybe a comedy about terrorism wasn't such a left-field decision -- if you can laugh at something, it's a little easier to stomach. And oh did I laugh at the terrorist in the ninja turtle costume. But they alternated between funny and poignant. The main character has a touching moment with his family, then him and the other terrorists are all driving on the highway belting out "Dancing in the Moonlight" at the top of their lungs. And it almost always works.
Jessica: Agreed. And it ends with a pretty tragic scene. Go figure. The movie is incredibly smart and well written, but I don't expect it to be a contender for any major awards or box office success. Because you're right -- it's about terrorism. It's never going to be that funny.
Colin: True. And maybe it's better if there's only one of these movies floating around. I don't want to end up with a sequel where Steve Carrell plays Osama Bin Laden.
Check out a full trailer of the movie below:
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