3 out of 5 stars
This is the story of a man who’s lost in life and lost also in a foreign country, who finds redemption in more ways than one. Not having read the book on which this is based, I can hazard a guess that the random, surreally absurd and episodic feel of the film is derivative of the style and sentiments of its original source. However, what might work on paper as a page turner might come across as meandering and unfocused on the big screen. Thankfully, there is an exotic backdrop (Morocco standing in for Saudi Arabia as my research helpfully informs me) and that fascinating and authentic look at that foreign culture maintains the film’s watchability and appeal. Further, what really holds the film together are the two Toms: Hanks is a charming and delightful presence playing the Everyman role that he is so good at and keeps the audience on his side while Tykwer’s breezy yet effective direction brings not only flair but a sense of fun and humour much needed to this multi-genre film, preventing it from becoming just another naval-gazing pseudo-intelligent fish out of water ‘comedy’ that isn’t as funny or profound as it thinks it is. Worth a watch if only for its curiosity value.