Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“Exporting Raymond” – Movie Review



This past weekend, my movie class had a bonus screening of the documentary Exporting Raymond, about the attempts of the creator of the hit TV series, “Everybody Loves Raymond” trying to bring the sitcom to Russia. 




“Everybody Loves Raymond” was a hit sitcom that ran for nine seasons on CBS.  Sony Television, which produced the show, decided that they could boost their revenue by putting the show on in different countries.  So, they sent Phil Rosenthal, the show’s creator, to Russia to help in the casting, translation and overall supervision of the show to present to a foreign audience.  Believing that family is universal and that the show’s success was due to the fact that it was about an average guy, Rosenthal was confident he would have yet another hit on his hands.

Troubles begin before Rosenthal even leaves the United States – as a wealthy American, he is strongly encouraged to take out Kidnapping & Ransom Insurance in the event he is abducted while abroad.  Upon reaching Moscow, he learns that his driver is a tough guy who once served in the Russian army and later may have also worked as a hit man for the mob.  Fortunately, he is paired with a young woman to serve as his translator in whom he is able to place an immense degree of trust as she also acts as something of a guardian angel during his stay.  Among the challenges he faces while trying to make a Russian version of the show are casting choices being overruled by the TV network and the fact that the humor fails to translate for the Russian sensibilities – add to that the fact that the show’s costume director wants to glamorize the housewives’ outfits so that they don’t look quite so frumpy and Rosenthal is certain he’s headed for disaster. 

With the cultural differences becoming increasingly apparent, Rosenthal is enormously disheartened, especially when he believes that the show’s staff is at odds with him and unable to produce the show in the best possible light.  Sony has put considerable pressure on Rosenthal to ensure the show is successful in Russia because they want to introduce more of their American shows into that market.  But can Rosenthal gain the trust of his co-workers and get them to appreciate how the true source of the show’s humor can make it a hit?




Admittedly, I was not exactly the biggest fan of the show “Everybody Loves Raymond” – which is not to say that I hated it, I’m just saying that it was never a program that showed up on my radar as something I classified as “must-see TV”.  Despite that, however, I want to assure you that you definitely do not need to have been a regular viewer of the show in order to appreciate this movie – however, if it turns out that you in fact are familiar with the show, then you’ll like this movie that much more when you see how certain scenes somehow managed to survive the Russian interpretation. 

Without a doubt, this is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a really long time and as a result, I highly recommend it to you.  Even if you are someone who doesn’t typically like to watch documentaries, I strongly feel that you’ll like “Exporting Raymond” anyway.  One of the things that is truly priceless about this film is the fact that Rosenthal – the writer, director, star and narrator of the documentary – has such an incredibly expressive face; watching him react to some of incredible situations he encounters is funny enough, not to mention the ridiculous nature of some of these predicaments. 

Following the screening was an interview with Rosenthal himself.  As you might expect from a professional comedy writer – but don’t always get – he is quite naturally funny and is able to amazingly extract humor from just about any occurrence and weave a fascinating and hilarious tale out of it all.  During the interview, he told of a rather disastrous screening of the movie a short while ago where everything that could possibly go wrong did, in fact, go horribly wrong.  And if we hadn’t just sat through a real life story about all of the bizarre circumstances in which Rosenthal finds himself, we would’ve doubted it was true – but, of course it was … except for the fact that when seen through his eyes, it becomes a wildly comic event. 



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