Movie review: The Infidel

This David Baddiel-penned "religion-clash" comedy is unspeakably offensive - to comedy

The Infidel
Cert: 15, 105 mins
Starring: Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff

Oh Lord, how to describe the horror of The Infidel. Perhaps best to start by looking at that term that graces it as a title. In the Qur’an, it means someone without faith – but any faith, so Christians and Jews are okay. More recently, to extremists, it’s come to mean anyone who isn’t Islamic. But the old way’s nicer – and it lets off the undecided too, as you have to actively reject God.

The upshot of all of this is, if you do reject the Almighty, you’re apparently set for an eternity of damnation and torment in the fiery pits of Hell. I was pondering this as I left the screening of The Infidel, and concluded the following: at least it’s not eternity in the company of a religion-based comedy-of-manners written by David Baddiel.

Sure, organised religion has a lot to answer for – The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, centuries-old hatred in the Middle East, intolerance, ignorance, nearly every war waged ever – but I can’t help thinking that this Brit-com, is actually the worst thing religion has ever given us. A comedy where a man who’s a Muslim finds out he was born a Jew, and then tries to become a Jew with hil-ari-ous consequences. Oh Lord, why have you forsaken us?

There really isn’t much more to explain. Omid Djalili, as ever, plays the Muslim. Richard Schiff, used to so much better than this in his time as Toby in The West Wing, plays the Jew. The rest is a tour of Jewish stereotypes, gags that either fall totally flat or feel like they were nicked from, a conga-line of increasingly-dumb plot points (he must learn how to be Jewish before he’s allowed to visit his real dad, who’s on death’s door in a hospital – why on Earth would that ever happen?), contrived set-ups, and cartoon characters (yes, there’s a Muslim with a hook for a hand. Well done David, comedy gold). Worse still are the “dramatic” scenes, which aren’t dramatic but funny – funnier than anything else in the film in fact, just not for the right reasons.

And to top it all off, just to give it that extra kick, is how utterly ugly it is, how lacking in any cinematic ambition. It’s an insult to most British comedies on the big screen to say they look like a TV show (as most do). The Infidel doesn’t, though. It looks like corporate information video shot in a day with a loo roll, some cling film, and recorded onto tracing paper.
Repent, my son. Repent.

1 out of 10

Stuart McGurk